Set at the very beginning of Operation Typhoon, this first engagement concerns elements of the Third and Fourth Panzer Groups encountering the Nineteenth Soviet Army, whilst moving east towards Vyazma, a town located on the Vyazma River.
As this initial clash was only to be a small (six turn) skirmish, the battlefield was simply made up of a centrally placed brick farm building, surrounding by three ploughed fields and two wooden barns. A number of wooded areas were scattered around the perimeter of the table to give the combatants some cover as they approached the Russian farm from opposing sides.
The German offensive plan was quite simple, with the Fourth Panzer Army (Heer and Panzer Mark III’s) holding the southern part of the battlefield, whilst the Third Panzer Army (Heer, Waffen-SS and Panzer Mark I’s) rushed northeast and swung across the farm and its buildings. To bolster the Southern flank, the Wehrmacht’s Commander accompanied the Fourth Panzer Army.
In response, the Red Army deployed its Cavalry (armed with submachine guns) and T-26 tanks to the south of their line, and its Veteran and Regular infantry to the North. A company of Conscripts was tasked to hold the centre of the line and push straight for the brick farmhouse. As a result, despite attaching himself to the Veteran infantry, the Russian Commander remained in sight of the Conscripts; ready to shoot any soldier who faltered in their duty to the Motherland.
With a patriotic yell, the Russian Veterans moved past a wooded area to their right, towards an L-shaped ploughed field (that would doubtless slow their approach to the farm buildings themselves. To their left, inspired by commissars with megaphones, the Conscripts ran towards the centrally located brick farm building. The inexperienced soldiers seemed completely oblivious to the fact that they were making themselves an easy target for the Wehrmacht guns. On the Soviet far southern flank, the Red Army cavalry spurred their horses forwards. Besides them came the grumble of engines, as the light infantry T-26 tanks tried to keep up with them. To the north, the Regular infantry mortar support opened up on the Panzer I formation, and tore open one of the armoured fighting vehicles.
Determined to form a strong firing line to hold off the imminent charge of the Russian Cavalry, the Panzer III tanks, accompanied by Heer infantry, moved east past an area of woodland towards a ploughed field. The German Commander hoped the boggy ground would protect his northern flank. To the north, the Waffen-SS headed for an area of woodland from which they could launch a charge at any soviet forces that came too close to nearby log barn. In addition, the elite German soldiers would also be in a good position to ‘protect’ the Panzer Mark I tanks from any Soviet close assaults.
The second turn of the battle, saw the Russian Conscripts continue their mad dash to the brick farmhouse, with some of the inexperienced soldiers actually making it inside the building. The T-26 tanks drove up alongside them, forming a strong Soviet presence in the centre of the battlefield. To the north, the Regular Mortar support fired a second salvo at the German Panzer I tanks, destroying another of the German Panzerkampfwagens. The remaining vehicle drove hard east and made for the potential cover of one of the farm estate’s wooden barns.
Worried by the Red Armies increasing dominance within the farm’s centre, the Panzer Mark III tanks, drove towards the Russian light infantry tanks and the farmhouse. However, the move brought them within charge range of the Red Army cavalry, and with a yell, the horsemen were amongst them hurling their molotov-cocktails. The German armour’s bulk gave them some protection from the onslaught, but things did not bode well for the tanks if the close combat continued for long. As a result, the Fourth Panzer Army’s Heer contingent moved east in support of the Panzer Mark III’s.
With the German Panzer’s already engaged, the Russian T-26 tanks took the opportunity to reposition themselves in order to obtain a clear field of fire upon the Wehrmacht armour, should their now dismounted Soviet brothers need to fall back. Far to their right, a cry of victory went up, as the Regular Infantry Mortar support team (ably directed by the Soviet Commander) destroyed the remaining PzKpfw I; so much for Heinz Guderian’s blitzkrieg.
It was clear that the battle was already starting to go in the Red Army’s favour, but the German soldier of the Third Reich was still far from defeated. The Fourth Panzer Army’s Heer rushed forwards and took the wooden barn directly in front of them, whilst both their Maschinengewehr 34 Machine gun and mortar support teams opened up on the nearby T-26 tanks. One of the Soviet light infantry tanks was knocked out. The Heer attached to the Third Panzer Army also opened up with its (machine gun and mortar) support units and started to take their toll on the red standard-carrying Russian Veteran soldiers. Meanwhile the Waffen-SS had taken up their position beside some woodland to the north, and from there started to pound the oncoming Russian Regular infantry with their Granatwerfer 34 Mortar, causing some casualties.
Unfortunately the German’s efforts to stem the oncoming Red Army flood appeared to be too little too late, as the Russian soldiers currently engaged in fierce close combat with the crews of the Panzer Mark III’s subdued their foes, torched the tanks and then (now on foot) swung northwest into the Fourth Panzer Army’s Heer infantry. Midway through the battle the German southern flank was badly faltering. With mortar and machine guns providing supporting fire, the Soviet Veteran infantry ploughed into the muddy field in front of them, bravely clawing their way towards the only unoccupied farm building left (i.e. a wooden barn). Beside them pushed on the Russian Regular infantry, despite more of the Motherland’s sons falling to the firepower of the German Heer and Waffen-SS.
Galvanised by the imminent arrival of the submachine gun carrying Russians, the Fourth Panzer Army’s Heer opened up with everything they had, and saw some of the Soviets fall before the bullets of their Maschinegewehr 34 machine gun. In addition, a T-26 tank exploded following a solid hit from the German Heer’s mortar support team. Unfortunately the Wehrmacht’s morale soon dwindled with the news that the Russian Conscripts were not only firing upon the German’s sheltering in one of the farm’s barns, but were close to wiping its occupants out.
Most of the action was now centred upon a ‘last stand’ by the remnants of the Fourth Panzer Army, and the ‘block war’ that was fast developing between the German inhabitants of one wooden barn and the Russian Conscripts steadfastly holding the farmhouse. Despite their mortar accounting for more Russian dead, the Fourth Panzer Army were swallowed up by the rampaging Soviet ‘tommy gunners’, who had now overcome the entire German southern flank. The situation then worsened for the Wehrmacht when more fire from the Russian Conscripts finally put an end to the last of the German resistance within the barn to the west of the farmhouse. With a triumphant shout, many of the exuberant Soviets rushed out of the stonewalled farmhouse in order to occupy the outer building.
The German’s only glimmer of hope was to take the farm’s other barn, and somehow hold out… but no sooner had some of the Third Panzer Army’s Heer infantry entered the building, then they saw the approaching Russian Veteran contingent finally pull themselves free from the muddy field they’d been ploughing through, and ready themselves to storm the thatch-roofed shelter.
Desperate to blunt some of the impact of the imminent Russian assault on the barn, the mortar support of the Waffen-SS pounded into the Motherland’s Veterans, and managed to kill some of the Soviet soldiers. Exhausted from their muddy trek across the field, and their strength further weakened by these fresh casualties, the Red Army’s charge was thrown back by the German Heer. However Soviet perseverance was still to take the day, as nearby Russian Conscripts also charged into the German-held barn, causing enough Heer casualties for the occupiers to loosen their grip on the building. It was clear as the battle approached its end that the German’s were close to losing their only hold on the farmstead. However the death knell for Wehrmacht came from the shell of a Russian 82mm Mortar Model 1941, not the falling of a wooden barn into Soviet hands. Remorselessly pursued by the Submachine gun soldiers of the Red Army, the German Commander inadvertently strayed into the sight of the Russian Veteran mortar support team, and fell victim to a direct hit.