Monday, 21 May 2012

Chorazy Crossroads, 1939

Chorazy Crossroads, Poland, 28th September, 1939

Hindsight tells us that the invasion of Poland had only a week to run when the skirmish at Chorazy Crossroads took place. It was a local counter-attack by troopers of the 11th Polish Legion Uhlans against their counterparts in the German 19th Reiters.
The start of play.

Sixty or so reiters were resting around the Bitwa Inn, their commanders taking their lunch within. Informed of this by his scouts, Major Kozacy split his squadron in two, intending to catch the Germans in a pincer movement. He led the southern wing himself.

Kozacy's wing gained ground swiftly, but the other pincer was detected by the German picket on the hill behind the inn. The second German platoon opened fire and killed several uhlans in that first volley, sending their fellows ducking to the ground.
The uhlans move up.

Under rather pathetic return fire, the reiters on the hill took the crest, cheerfully settling down to pick off the uhlans to their north. As they did so, fire began to ripple from Kozacy's lead company, surprising the other German platoon. However, they reacted like the consummate professionals they were, quickly seizing the initiative and laying down a weight of fire to pin the approaching Poles in place.

In the north, Captain Straty brought up another platoon past the farm. Its advance stopped in the fields due accurate fire from the reiters on the hill, the centre of the wave going to ground under the hail of bullets.
Straty's first platoon stopped in the fields.

Unhappy about his men stalling, Kozacy rode forward himself. With the help of Lieutenant Porucznik, he rallied them around him and they opened up to cover a move west by the reserve platoon.

Captain Straty's shattered first platoon through the woods, and the reserve took their place. The men in the fields also girded their loins and moved forward under fire. Now the inn was surrounded on three sides, and the weight of fire coming in was beginning to discomfit Captain Grys.
Are those beads of sweat or suppression..?
Leaving the inn to rally his men in the woods, Grys was taken by surprise by Kozacy's coming blow. A storm of fire erupted from the southern woods, and with a cry of “For our Freedom!”, a charge came from the east. The reiters on the hill drove one squad to ground, but the rest charged home. The veteran lancers fell upon the suppressed Germans in a slaughter, and not one escaped, not even Leutnant Gerhardt, who fought valiantly but was outmatched pistol to bayonet.
The Bitwa's woods are Polish once again.

Determined to preserve at least a part of his command for as long as possible, Captain Grys moved his men west, off the hill and into the woods in a desperate rush.

Straty's men followed them, but were checked at the crests of the hills by the reiters' fire. It was enough to give Grys a moment of relief – until the sharp whistles of ricochets and the bloom of splintering wood reminded him that there were Poles to his left, still firing, still unsuppressed.

Kozacy's own platoon moved forward into a wall of iron, stumbling to halt in the woods across the road from the Germans.
The Germans face the might of the 11th Polish Legion.

Aware of the impasse that his earlier lack of stealth placed the squadron in, Straty opened fire with every squad at his command. Grys could only stare as man after man of his brave platoon was whittled away by Polish fire.
What "just" eight squads firing in unison can do...

Straty's lieutenants rallied their men, desperate to throw more men into the firing line. The inn was once more occupied, this time by the uhlans.

Even as he cheered his men on, Kozacy knew that nothing more than another desperate charge could clear these Germans out. They did not retreat despite not being cut off – was it honour, or were they pinning his men in place for an airstrike or artillery bombardment brought back by some quick messenger?
The reiters' end approaches.

It is said that all a leader must do in war is make decisions. If they are good ones, so much the better. All along the line, the 11th Polish Legion opened up, and then from the south, Lieutenant Porucznik led his men in a charge across the open grass. One squad went to ground, two more charged in among the trees. Captain Grys counter-charged with his assistants, every reiter around him blazing away with their Mausers or making grim work with their entrenching tools.

But it was no good. German honour was no match for Polish steel. As the crows cawed overhead and the uhlan officers redressed their squads, checking for dead and wounded, Captain Grys' cracked pocket watch marked it only three o'clock of the afternoon.

Chorazy Crossroads, 1500h 28/09/39

Chorazy Crossroads Butcher's Bill:
Germans: sixty men dead, seven prisoners
Polish: nineteen dead, twelve wounded

This was a game of Crossfire, played on a 2x2 foot board with 2mm soldiers (retasked from the Kop That! project). I didn't think it would work, but it all went smoothly in the end. It felt both tense and inevitable all at the same time, with I think is a good show for a game. I think if I run it again I'll only give the Polish four platoons for a 2-1 advantage. 3-1 is all very good when attacking, but with their higher morale they didn't really need it.

The man of the match was either Lieutenant Porucznik or Captain Grys. Both did sterling work rallying and re-rallying their men. Grys held out against crazy odds for longer than he might have done, and Porucznik led the fateful final charge that despite being 10 dice to 9 was only won 2-0.

The “ambush” nature of the scenario was implemented by allowing the Polish to remain “hidden” until either they opened fire or were spotted either in open terrain or on the roll of a 6 by a German unit when in a terrain feature. I expected this would give more manoeuvring, but the reiter pickets caught Captain Straty out very quickly. All in all, very fun, and a lovely way to spend an hour or so with a game I haven't played much of recently.

Orders of Battle
Germans: 1x Company Commander, 2 x Platoons (Platoon Commander, 3 Squads). Regular morale
Polish: 2x Company Commanders, 6x Platoons (Platoon Commander, 3 squads). Veteran morale

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