The Reorganised Tank Corps Toys

It’s been a wet fortnight, which no-one in the UK  needs to be reminded of, so as light relief from work I moved my reorganised tank corps from its big foolscap box to a smaller Billy bookshelf box, which it now fits. Missing is the logistic support, which is in a separate corps box and a few infantry stands – you can see the bases waiting for them when they arrive.
This was prompted by me finding an old tin of Humbrol 80 grass green enamel matt at the back of my painting drawer. It must be at least 15 years old but is still in perfect condition. Never let it be said that I rush into projects. The plan, years back, was that I would quickly paint everything on the Soviet side in a black green undercoat, then a lighter shade of olive green and brown over the top. The brown was very quickly done but somehow the very deep green undercoat became a permanent topcoat. I bought the 80 green originally for Soviet aircraft as it is quite a saturated colour that mimics the civilian shade of tractor green that they used, but it works quite well on vehicles too, and is close enough to Phil Steele’s stuff (which I think is probably close to Humbrol 76) for it to appear on the table together (not that it ever stopped us in the past). This work-in-progress shows the difference between the shades quite clearly.

Plastic Soldier Company Heavy Weapon Sets

The new Plastic Soldier Company heavy weapon sets are a welcome addition for the 15mm wargamer. It will not have escaped the astute reader’s attention that the proportions of kit in these boxes is wrong for the operational wargamer : 2-3 mortar crews to 1 MG crew. For operational gaming it should ideally be the other way round. All is not lost however, as the support stand is nothing more than a marker, and can really have anything on it if it is distinguishable.

Hands up if you have a 120mm mortar!
Here is a suggestion : On a scheme where 6 battalion support stands are needed and  2 regimental support stands for a division, the Germans use 4 MGs, 2 82mm crews with 2 50mm mortars captured from  the Soviet set at batallion level, 2 82mm mortars at regimental level, leaving 2 spare 82mm mortars. The 4 120mm mortars can be used as independent mortar battalions, or fed into the regiments for later war use and the 8 Panzerfausts and 8 ‘shrecks can be added to rifle stands to denote that they have a late war anti-tank capability, or can be used as anti-tank stands in their own right, depending on your game preference. I know that I won’t have many spares myself, as crew figures are always in demand for the artillery in operational gaming

The Soviets have an easier time of it as they need only 1 MG, 1 82mm mortar and 1 anti-tank rifle (ATR) per regiment, giving enough to fill 4 regiments with 4 spare 50mm mortar crews and 1 independent 120mm mortar batallion of 4 tubes.
The easy way out is to say that a support stand is a support stand, and just fill it with whatever comes to hand ….. hmmm. Can’t see that being popular. The fun way is to go back to scratchbuilding to convert models that you need.
I understand that the Soviet MGs have been beefed up since the photo for the box art was taken, but I haven’t seen any myself. I’m no fan of scale creep, but feel that this is one area where Martin Goddard at Peter Pig has got it exactly right – weapons need to be fat enough not to bend. Now if we could only persuade him not to follow the FoW “pumpkin head ” fashion my happiness would be complete.

Simplifying the Red god of War

Reading through some of the bewildering changes in the Soviet orders of battle in Zaloga and Ness (1998) leads me to the conclusion that simplification is needed when reducing everything to a 1:30 NQM scale. After all, MiniHitler and SmallStalin only have 15mm forces with which to wage their wars.
Part of me wants to faithfully reflect the historical campaign, but another part recognises that there are limits to what can be achieved. I think I really lost the plot when looking at RVKG (Stavka artillery reserve) artillery orders of battle, but the resultant simplifications have been added to the NQM Soviet Artillery page:
RVKG 1941 Anti tank Brigade. 2 Anti-tank rifle (s3), 2 76mm divisional gun (s3) + limber (s3), 2 85mm AA/anti-tank gun (s3) + limber (s3). These were all disbanded in 1941 in favour of artillery regiments, which were all lost outside the gates of MOSCOW in winter 1941.
RVKG 1941 Anti tank Regiment. 76mm divisional gun (s3) + limber (s3) or 85mm AA/anti-tank gun (s3) + limber (s3).

RVKG (Apr ’42) Anti tank Brigade. 2 Anti-tank rifle (s3), 76mm/57mm/45mm gun (s3) + limber (s3). This orbat remained until late 1943 with thirty 76mm brigades and one 85mm brigade being formed.
76mm Anti-tank Brigade with Peter Pig figures and scratchbuilt limber

57mm Anti-tank Brigade with Peter Pig figures, FoW  komsolets limber and stand-in for a 57mm gun

45mm Anti-tank Brigade with Peter Pig figures and FoW  komsolets limber
Anti-aircraft regiments went through several iterations as Stavka juggled with effectiveness against high and low flying aircraft. They formed orbats for airfield defence regiments without transport, and mobile regiments. For simplicity I only have one AA orbat :
PVO Anti-aircraft Division. 37mm Anti-aircraft gun (s3) [2 by 1943], 12.7mm DShK MG (s3), 85/76mm AA gun (s2), quad 48 MG (s3) [1942 only]. 1-0 of any of these weapons can be present in a division, each with a limber (s3) if mobile, or without if an airfield defence division. You can see a fairly thin airfield defence Division below.

Independent mortar regiments appeared from army, corps and RVKG in calibres of 120mm, 160mm heavy and 107mm mountain : all as 1 tube (s3) + limber (s3), or as …

Independent mortar Brigade. 4 tubes (s3) + limber (s3)

You can see three-and-a-half mortar brigades in this artillery box, together with General Chestikov and sundry other units that have been scraped together for a last ditch defence on an artillery gun line.

Almost Mechanised – Soviet Armoured Forces 1942-45

Here is the state of key equipment in the tank corps following massive losses of all types through 1942. Mechanised corps were absorbing most of the new production as it was shown that the tank corps possessed insufficient infantry, artillery or logistic support to exploit breakthroughs. To make sense of these orbat fragments you should read them in conjunction with the NQM Orbat pages for tanks and mechanised troops :

The new Tank Corps

1943 onwards, 1944 onwards, 1945 onwards.
Tank corps HQ. Command car (s3), Signal Van (s3), T-34 (s3).
Tank brigade x 3. 3 T-70 (s2), 3 T-34 (s3), 0 T-70, 6 T-34 (s3). This is a total for all 3 brigades and a vast improvement on the state of  the tank corps in April 1942 shown below.

Motor rifle brigade.  Comd (s3), 82mm mortar (s3), 120mm mortar (s3).
Infantry Battalion x 3  Comd (s3), 2-3 Rifle (s3), 0-1 SMG (s3), Truck (s3).
Artillery Regiment. 76mm gun (s2)(s1)(s3) + Limber (s3), Su76/85 (s3)(s4), SU-152 (s2), [Katushas, SU-152, are shown at army, or artillery division level.]
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
It should be stressed once more that these were authorised strengths, not necessarily achieved strengths. The Soviets might have flattered themselves that this was a corps, but it looked divisional-sized to the Wehrmacht. In particular, very few of the tank corps received their supporting units until 1943-44.

The new Mechanised Corps :

Mechanised corps HQ. Command car (s3), Signal Van (s3), T-34 (s3).
Tank bde . 1 T-70 (s2), 5 T-34 (s3), 0 T-70, 6 T-34 (s3).
Motor rifle brigade HQ x 2-3. Comd (s3), 82mm/120mm mortar (s3) [The division had a mix of three 82mm or 120mm], 45mm Atk gun (s3), 37mm AA (s3) [both in the 1st brigade only, or with the divisional HQ]. In February 1943 the AA was consolidated into a corps AA battalion.

Infantry Bn x 6-9* Comd (s3), 2-3 Rifle (s3), 0-1 SMG (s3), Truck (s3).  * I only model 9 infantry battalions in a guards division and not always then either. All 3 brigades may have been motorised, but equally, only one may have, with the remainder marching, or riding on tanks. Submachine gun companies were raised specifically as tank riders – they had a short life expectancy.

Artillery Regt. 76mm gun (s3), Su-76/85 (s2), SU-152 (s2), 37mm AA (s3) then shown at army level after 1943, Katushas, SU-152, are shown at army, or artillery division level.

One of the 122mm guns that appeared in batteries of four guns at divisional level, so I show them at corps level and above.

An SU-122/152 battalion. Surprisingly, these were replaced by SU-85s that had better armour piercing capabilities. This level of detail is best left to tactical games.
Guesting on this blog before Phil finishes the model and posts it on his own is his TK-4. Actually though, I am more excited by his Zis-5 BZ fuel truck because it shows the way forward for conversions. Top marks as ever Phil!


Shrinking Soviet Orders of Battle

As the war progressed, the Soviets were no more immune then the Axis powers to shrinking manpower and equipment. Taking the new infantry order of battle for July 1942, standardised finally in December 1942, given in Zaloga and Ness’ (1998) Red Army Handbook, we have the following NQM mid-war orbat :
Divisional HQ & Signals. Comd car (s3), signal truck or cart (s3), single figure NKVD (s1), 3 single fig recce (s1). There are now twice as many political officers and NCOs in a divisional HQ as regular officers and NCOs!

Infantry Regiment HQ x 3. Comd (s3), 82mm mortar (s3), MMG (s3), anti-tank rifle (s3). The 76mm regimental gun has shrunk to 4 per division  so is no longer a key equipment to model. I am currently (spring 2012) only modelling 2 regiments for regular battalions and 3 for guards divisions.

Infantry Battalions x 6-9. Comd (s3), 3 rifle (s3). MMGs no longer appear at this level and I have reduced Soviet battalions to 6 in a division unless it is a Guards Division. The blue trousers of the chaps below indicate that they have come from my cavalry division.

Field Artillery Regiment. FOO (s3), 76mm div gun (s3) + horse limber (s3). Command staff are represented at divisional level.

Medium Machine Gun Battalion. MMG (s3). Yup, we all know what they look like by now.

Anti-tank Battalion. Anti-tank rifle (s3), 45mm anti-tank gun (s3) + truck limber (s3).
Regimental anti-tank weapons appear at this level. Command staff are represented at divisional level. the Soviets recognised, as did the Wehrmacht, that anti-tank weapons needed to be as mobile as possible. this is not to say that these guns were never horse drawn.

Pioneer Bn. 2 Pioneer (s3). The lack of transport implies an assault pioneer role for these troops. Command staff are represented at divisional level.

Divisional services. Medical cart (s3), Ammo Cart (s3), Artillery cart (s3), Truck (s3). These are often extracted to Corps level in our campaign.

In the picture above, it is clear that there is space to spare now in my standard-sized divisional box.
The seven 120mm mortars in a division now usually appear at corps level in seperate artillery battalions or divisions. The twelve 122m howitzers in a division also appear at corps level in artillery divisions.
AA capability is shown at corps or army level too.