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At 1400 Balck and Horgein sent another report up the channels. After touring the near front in a Leichter Panzerspähwagens to get a feel for the situation at hand Balck felt good. With more snow coming as it always did late afternoon and sunset in 2 hours there was little chance the Soviets would try with battered units to press too hard. Horgein had stay as a HQ, as per usual. He was one of a few ‘placed’ ranking officers in the GD. Usually you had to earn your rank here.
Looking down across the Luchessa River through the slackening snow he saw the Soviet tanks, and men milling about. Horgein was right. It was tempting to charge in and counter attack. Look at them. Pathetic. The war was lost. But not our pride he thought.
There was no doubt weak points remained however. His cautious arrangements around Vasil’tsova had revealed one thing that he was concerned about. The Tarkhovo forest road was more exposed now, than he was happy with. With any luck they would not notice. It was a draw back of the recessed reverse slope defense.
After siphoning off 7-II for the defense of Noviki when it looked as tho the Soviets might break through he had now exposed the road. Similarly the Goncharova area was short of not just men but tanks as well.
The Pioneers and III Bn were going to have to stick it out. There were none to spare….Again.
It looked like the Russians might ease up and wait for morning, that would be typical of them their units were not known for their night fighting skills.
Meanwhile Horgein was glad to see that IBn had redeployed, placed mines and were all in position. II 252 was taking its time but otherwise a good day. Except being thwarted for his counter attack. Balck was always so dam cautious.
As 1400 rolled by he wondered why Balck was not back nor why no Arty was firing. The skies had cleared again. His adjutant brought in a munitions reports from II-120 and 4/5/6/ II GD. Gott in Himmel! They were low on stock! Resupply was at least 12 hours away. Thankfully reports indicated that the Soviets were still idling. He sat and lit his 4th, no 5th…hmm no 7th cigarette for the day. If only we could attack them now we could drive them back and re take the offensive and win this war! He could do it if he had the right men and control. He knew it! He mused.
He heard the fast paced urgent footfalls before he saw the officers face. “Mein Herr we have breaking news!” Horgein, disdainfully looked up and waved the officer in. Tapping his cigarette he looked and said “Well”.
The words that came out of the officers mouth were not what he was expecting.
Another Soviet Battalion had entered the battle field near Starhuki. They had barreled right thru his reconnoiter company, and bypassed the 110. They looked to be headed to Noviki or Vasil’tsova. The tanks from the enemy 29th and Guards division were also on the move. Headed South West. This was most confusing. Balck was headed to Travino, I wonder if the bastard will see any action? The man has more holes than a sieve, but makes no mention of his wounds, awards or his past. He is just focused on his men.
1600 The air reverberates with the noise of one thing. Rockets. “Button Up please Gentlemen” calls Balck calmly, as the swarms of fire rock his Scout car. “Halt the vehicle” is his first request as the noise from the salvo dies down. From his ‘nocs he can see in the dimming light the Soviet troops. By the insignia on vehicles it’s the 1319, part of the 185th Rifle.
Seems like the Russkies are all in on this one. Balck started thinking thru lines of retreat, the locations he had chosen for defense NE of Vasil’tsova. The ground rose, but opened up too. If he could get enough men dug in, he could make life expensive for the Russians in their drive to surround the rest of the Army.
His conversations with Oberst for the 110th, Otto Heinrich WalterKurt Kruse (who would eventually end up Division Kommanduer)
lead him to believe that the Soviets were probing hard on Travino. Intel reports confirmed it as a primary target for the second time today. Things were about to get ugly.
They drove closer to the Cemetery of Travino, to assess the Soviet forces. He enjoyed his time with Kruse, he had been decorated more than once. He was a warrior.
Jumbled weeds poked thru snow, small gravestones marked the passing of life in the cemetery. Who would honor his life he thought to himself if he died here in this worthless barren area; would he even be buried?
As night fell the sky popped. cracked and hissed with illumination rounds. Fire intensified around the Cemetery and at the bridge. If his men were facing a full Battalion or two then it was only a matter of time before Travino fell.
Balierev drove dangerously fast along the darkening road eastwards to the fords. He urged his men by example. The Lorries careened along behind him in the 3 lead BA-64 scout cars.
Balierev loved this vehicle, it was fast and light, cranking along at nearly 50 mph with a 7.62mm MG for good measure. Built on a jeep chassis it was rock solid and had a little protection. These were fresh off the production line. Only motorized rifle battalions received this equipment.
As the leader of 3-445 he knew his mission, he knew the risks of a night attack and he knew just how fragile his forces would be if they sat around getting cold.
Co-ordinating with the 452 who was holding most of the II Bn of the revered and GD in place they had finally found a means to get a bead on dug in units and put 76mm batteries on them prior to Balierev’s arrival:
3-452 takes cover and sights in the Germans
The fire from the 463 Artillery typically scattered and missed altogether , but this time it was good enough to get the krauts heads down.
T-34’s and T-70’s drove hard for the ford once the break thru had happened.
The 49th and friends practice overrun techniques in the frigid cold, under the glare of star shells. Meanwhile the infantry realize they might find warmth and comfort in Noviki and shake off the fear of death and head to town.
- Did Russia Really Go It Alone? How Lend-Lease Helped the Soviets Defeat the Germans (warhistoryonline.com)
- Russian channel censored WWII series documenting ‘dark side’ of Soviet war effort (warhistoryonline.com)