Sunday, November 1, 2009

"Peredovoye Otryad"- building a Forward Detachment

"One after another the tanks set off down the glassy road, followed by three hundred trucks.  Although it might seem strange, Colonel Esipenko placed the main force, including the heavy tank regiment,  not at the head of the column but at the tail.  He calculated that the enemy, in the process of retreating under the impact of our army, would appear behind the detachment, and it was there that the greatest danger was to be expected.  Concealed under tarpaulins, the Katyushas were travelling in the middle of the column. 
It was an imposing sight as the column moved along the road- the trucks filled with troops, the tanks, the guns, and the anti-aircraft pieces."

Bokov, quoted in Red Storm on the Reich by C.Duffy (p. 341)

Bokov is recounting the scene as the Forward Detachment of the Fifth Shock Army, under Colonel Episenko, set off to wreak havoc amongst the crumbling German Wehrmacht on January 19th, 1945.   

I have always thought that a Forward Detachment (Peredovoye-Otryad in Russian) offered a lot of scope for gaming possibilities.   I was obviously not alone in doing so, as I see that the Flames of War website has also recently provided a PDF file for download on building up one of these formations. 

And what's not to like?  It was a glamorous and dynamic formation, running ahead of the main armies and probing deep behind an enemy's front line,  seeking opportunities to destroy enemy rear concentrations and to seize vital junctions and river crossings.  On top of that, it was very much a flexible organization, ranging in size from a few companies to over brigade strength.

And you get lots of kewl stuff!  For example, the Forward Detachment of the 5th Shock Army  consisted of the 65 or so T-34/85's of the 220th Independent Tank Brigade, the 89th Independent Heavy Tank Regiment with it's sexy IS-2m's,  and the 1,006th Rifle Regiment- along with various other assets including the Katyusha's mentioned above. These could include towed and self-propelled artillery, assault guns and a variety of other goodies custom-designed to warm the heart of a Soviet player.  

You can also use Spetznatz troops using German equipment- including tanks and halftracks- to infiltrate the enemy lines! 

Another example of a Forward Detachment comes from the 36th Army in the attack on Harbin during the 1945 Manchurian campaign.  Under the command of Maj. Gen. Burmasov,  it consisted of the following;
205th Tank Brigade

152nd Rifle Regiment (from 94th Rifle Div.)

158th Tank Destroyer Battn.

1st Battn, Guards Mortar Regiment

97th Light Artillery Regiment

791 SP Artillery Battn. (SU-76m) (from 94th Rifle Div.)

465th A.A. Artillery Battn.

1st Battn. 176th Mortar Regiment

1st Company, 124th Sapper Battn.

(from D. Glanz, August Storm, which can be found here).

Currently I am writing up my own order of battle for my platoon-based Soviet Forward Detachment, based on a number of suggested lists out there.  Once I finishing costing out the points for  use with Blitzkrieg Commander,  I'll post it here. 

In other developments,  I received notification that my BA-6's and 76.2mm guns have been shipped, and are now simply at the mercy of the labour situation with the Royal Mail.  But on the modelling front, a lot has been happening. 

I now have two battalions of my Tank Brigade well under construction (one more to go),  and today being dry I had the chance to give the first tank battalion, along with part of the headquarters company, a spray of black undercoat.  

Once the paint dries thoroughly, out will come the airbrush and I can start painting the beasts. 

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