Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of miniatures wargaming with an emphasis on 15mm World War II and Flames of War.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Unit Through the War in Flames of War: 654 Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung – Part 3

In this third and final installment tracing 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung through World War II in Flames of War, we look at the unit in the Late War period (Part 1 covers Early War, while Part 2 covers Mid War). Fortunately actually fielding the unit is far easier in Late War as there are numerous lists covering its deployment. After surrendering their Ferdinand tank destroyers after the battle of Kursk and the Soviet counteroffensives, the unit spent the next several months in rear areas training while their new mount, the Jagdpanther tank destroyer, was readied. The first eight of these vehicles didn’t arrive until March 4, 1944, and training in the new vehicles began immediately.

Deliveries of the new vehicle were slow, and the unit was deployed to Normandy with only its eight original vehicles reaching the front by the end of June. The remainder of the unit’s 25 vehicles didn’t arrive at the training camp until the first of July, and by the end of the month the unit was in some sort of order.  The unit also received a few Panther tanks as command vehicles. Finally fighting as a unit, and despite the mechanical fragility of the new vehicle, the unit took a heavy toll on Allied armor destroying over 40 Allied tanks near Caen fighting alongside units like 276. and 326. Infanteriedivision as well as a part of Kampfgruppe Schnepf. However, despite their best efforts, the lines in Normandy couldn’t hold, and the unit was forced to abandon most of its vehicles at the Seine in the general retreat.

Atlantik Wall has a dedicated list covering 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung along with several other lists which can take the unit as a support choice. This gives the player a great deal of flexibility in fielding the force.

Opposing the Normandy Breakout  – 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung – July through September, 1944

Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie – Atlantik Wall p. 136
·         Compulsory:  As required by list – if you want to model the early battles before the entire Abteilung is outfitted with the Jagdpanther, take the Panther A option as HQ – for the later battles stick with the Jagdpanther (early) tank destroyers.
·         Historical Flavor: 
o   Any of the support options for this list are fine as the list is specifically designed to represent 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung. It’s up to you if you want to try and stay historical in your support choices (as in when the unit would be supporting an infantry division or other unit)

Grenadierkompanie – Atlantik Wall p. 140 – or Pionierkompanie – Atlantik Wall p. 144
·         Compulsory:  As required by list – in this case rather than taking the unit itself, you’d be using the unit to support an infantry company from units like 276. and 326. Infanteriedivision
·         Add 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung:  Add the Jagdpanther Platoon on page 137


Now that you can truly base a list around the unit, there are some fun modeling projects you can do with the unit. You’ll need the version of the Jagdpanther with zimmerit to properly model 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung at this time. Unfortunately the boxed set of three Jagdpanthers with zimmerit (GBX41) is no longer available and Battlefront instead recommends the new plastic Jagdpanther (which is flat out wrong and isn’t a substitution for the early model because the plastic Jagdpanther is a late version without zimmerit, among other important cosmetic differences).  That means you have to go the fairly expensive route of picking up several Jagdpanther (GBX22) sets with the ruined building. Which is a nice little terrain piece in its own right, but it add unnecessary expense if all you want is a few of the right Jagdpanthers. Hopefully you’ll be able to find some in the secondary market or at your Favorite Local Gaming Store!

As the first production Jagdpanthers went to 654 Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung, the unit had a mix of the monobloc and two-piece barrels. If you’re modeling the unit early on, be sure to take the opportunity to fix-up the barrels of the Jagdpanthers so they have that distinctive monobloc look. I did that on my Jagdpanthers for 559 Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung a while back. If you get the version of the miniature with the plastic barrel (or pick up the Plastic Panther Sprue (GSO199) and use it for the gun barrels (and tracks – do yourself a favor and use the plastic tracks – they are excellent!).  For the Normandy campaign, the unit’s vehicles were generally painted in a 3 tone “wide-band” camouflage scheme. The unit used the standard national markings on the sides and to the rear of that a normal 3-digit vehicle number in red with white outline.  The Panthers appear to have been in a band scheme as well (though the red and green are separate in artist’s renderings) – and at least one was number 002 (red with white outline), I believe the other was 001. There may have been one Jagdpanther in overall dark yellow, but that is unconfirmed. 


Operation Nordwind

Through October 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung was in a period of rebuilding, but by November 20th, the unit was back up to strength. Hitler committed the unit to Operation Nordwind.  For this battle, 525. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung and its Hornisse tank destroyers were attached to the unit. The fighting in Alsace was a vicious back-and-forth affair, but by the end of the action, the unit had destroyed over 100 Allied tanks. After Nordwind, the Hornisse were removed, and the unit continued serve as a fire brigade for the next several weeks, but by February 8, 1945 the unit Jagdpanthers had once again been lost.

I had the privilege of writing up the German lists and history for the Bridge at Remagen book, and it includes a list designed specifically to represent the unit during the Nordwind offensives. The list is pretty much a standalone list with no other lists that can choose it in support, but it does allow you to field the unique combination of Jagdpanther and Hornisse as combat platoons in the same army.


Operation Nordwind and the Aftermath  – 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung – December 23, 1944 through February 8, 1945

654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Kompanie (Nordwind) – Bridge at Remagen p. 54

·         Compulsory:  As required by list.  You’re free to include or skip the Hornisse platoon – either way is accurate, though the Hornisse were detached before the unit lost all of its Jagdpanthers.
·         Historical Flavor: 
o   Any of the support options for this list are fine as the list is specifically designed to represent 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung

Modeling this particular version of the unit is in some ways the most difficult of the three eras when the unit is equipped with Jagdpanther because Battlefront makes no miniature (and has never made miniatures) that are 100% appropriate for the vehicles used by the Abteilung during this time frame. By and large the vehicles are all Jagdpanthers without zimmerit – generally in a wide or narrow band style camouflage marked with national crosses and three digit vehicles numbers (red with white outline) as before. The unit appeared to get a fairly scruffy whitewash before the Nordwind offensive.

The new Panther/Jagdpanther Platoon (Plastic) (GBX84) is really a “final production” version of this vehicle rather than the “mid” production version of the vehicle. The mid production vehicle didn’t have the raised cooling fan on the engine deck, and used the earlier style exhausts (which come in the kit – you’ll probably want to put the rounded shield over the middle portion of the exhaust). They also all had the stowage bin to the left of the hull rear hatch (as viewed from the rear). The gun cleaning rod tube was relocated from the side to the back of the engine deck (which is easy to do as it is a separate piece in the kit). If you want a 100% accurate representation, steal one of the engine deck screens from the Panther hull and donate it to the Jagdpanther once you’ve shaved the raised one down. The required stowage box is on the sprue with the tracks.  One can’t rule out that some earlier versions were also in use, so feel free to mix and match a little bit.


Ruhr Pocket to the End

The unit ended the war in the Ruhr pocket being deployed to the area in late February, 1945.  Initially the unit fought as a part of Schwere Panzergruppe Hudel. Unfortunately recreating the army during this period is hard to accomplish at modest point values as to best represent the force you’ll want to take a 512. Schwere Panzerjäger Platoon (reluctant trained – the confident veteran company did not fight with the Kampfgruppe), Schwere Panzer Platoon, or Schwere Tiger I E Platoon in support.  Any of these choices will eat up a lot of points, so you may have to pare back your compulsory choices.  Fortunately the RT list only requires one 654. Schwere Panzerjäger Platoon, making the list at least mathematically viable. Historically the Kampfgruppe was supported by infantry and a few militia (represented by the Volkssturm options). 

By mid-March, the unit had been detached from the Kampfgruppe and reassigned to support 11. Panzer Division. By this time, the only armored support platoons that are representative would be the Panzer Platoon. The infantry choices, again, appear to all be reasonably valid for this short period of time between March 16 and 18. 

On March 19, the 654th was released from 11. Panzer Division, and was essentially on its own. To best represent the force during this period, the only armored formation that should be taken in support would be the Panzer platoon, though one could argue with the withdrawal of 11. Panzer Division, any armored assets apart from the unit’s own Jagdpanthers would be rare.  On April 15, 654. Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung had expended its last in a desperate bid to stop the American advance. With its fighting strength reduced to effectively zero, the unit surrendered ending its participation in the Second World War. 
  
The Bridge at Remagen book has a list for this incarnation of the force on page 55 for the various desperate battles in the Ruhr pocket. Writing this list was particularly challenging because formations were being created, disbanded, redeployed, and recreated at a dizzying rate.

Ruhr Pocket – February 21 – March 10, 1945 – in transit – technically attached to 5. Panzer Armee

Ruhr Pocket - Schwere Panzergruppe Hudel – March 11-15, 1945 – Remagen p 55.

·         Compulsory:  RV 654. Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie HQ + one RV 654. Schwere Panzerjäger Platoon
·         Historical Flavor:  512. Schwere Panzerjäger Platoon (RT), Schwere Panzer Platoon or Schwere Tiger I E Platoon
·         Not appropriate for this time period:  Panzer Platoon
·         Appropriate Support:  Any allowable by list

Ruhr Pocket – Attached to 11. Panzer Division – March 15-19, 1945 – Remagen p 55.

·         Compulsory:  RV 654. Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie HQ + one RV 654. Schwere Panzerjäger Platoon
·         Historical Flavor:  Panzer Platoon
·         Not appropriate for this time period:  512. Schwere Panzerjäger Platoon (RT), Schwere Panzer Platoon or Schwere Tiger I E Platoon
·         Appropriate Support:  Any allowable by list

Ruhr Pocket – During the collapse of the Pocket – March 19 – April 15, 1945 – Remagen p 55.

·         Compulsory:  RV 654. Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie HQ + one RV 654. Schwere Panzerjäger Platoon
·         Possible, but unlikely:  Panzer Platoon
·         Not appropriate for this time period:  512. Schwere Panzerjäger Platoon (RT), Schwere Panzer Platoon or Schwere Tiger I E Platoon
·         Appropriate Support:  Any allowable by list

Modeling the unit during this timeframe is fairly easy – though some fun can be had with it. Most of the vehicles will be new production late Jagdpanthers, pretty much what you get in the Panther/Jagdpanther Platoon (Plastic) (GBX84) box. Photographic evidence suggests some will have the stowage bin on the hull rear, others won’t. Most of these vehicles have the gun cleaning rod at the back of the engine deck and will have the cylindrical exhausts as provided in the kit. Interestingly, at least a few still retained the “side pipes” even with the cylindrical exhaust. There is also photographic evidence of at least one early production Jagdpanther, with zimmerit, a two-piece gun barrel, and the gun cleaning tube moved to the rear of the engine deck that served with the unit during this time. This vehicle had likely been factory refurbished and sent back to the front alongside the new-production vehicles.  In general all of the vehicles were in a three tone scheme – though some vehicles carried the vehicle number below the national insignia, and at least one vehicle carried the national insignia on the front of the vehicle. Below is an extant color photo of one of the vehicles from this time period knocked out near Winterberg – bear in mind the color isn’t going to be “true” by modern standards, but it gives you a good idea of what these awesome vehicles actually looked like. Granted this one is a bit worse for wear!.


Thus ends the combat history of 654. Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung from its humble beginnings as a towed 3.7cm anti-tank gun battalion, through its use of the Ferdinand and later Jagdpanther tank destroyers. A unit with such a long and diverse combat history provides many opportunities for the Flames of War player to experiment with units and unify the three game periods. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this series – let me know if you have any other units you’d like to see in the comments – and no, the next one WON’T be Grossdeutschland, but I’d love to actually do that one some day!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Unit Through the War in Flames of War: 654 Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series we looked at Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654 in World War II as it can be fielded in Flames of War for the Early War period. Now in Part 2 we move into the Mid-War period as the unit transitions from a normal towed anti-tank battalion to a heavy self-propelled anti-tank battalion and how to field the various incarnations in your next game of Flames of War.

Mid War – Transition to Heavier Guns

In early 1942, the men of Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654 were still soldiering on with the hopelessly outclassed 3.7cm PaK36.  The unit now referred to them as “Tank Door-Bells” as shots would routinely bounce off of opposing armor. Assigned to 45. Infanterie-Division, the unit saw action near Trudki in early January 1942. Finally, in early April 1942 (soon after Easter according to the units records), the unit was transitioned to new, heavier anti-tank guns. The first and third companies transitioned to the extremely effective 7.5cm PaK40 gun, while the second company used the 7.5cm PaK97/38 gun – which was French gun on a 5cm PaK38 chassis. While more effective than the 3.7cm gun, the French piece could not match the performance of the German 7.5cm gun. 

The unit took part in the Don offensive which began on July 1, 1942. Throughout this campaign the unit was involved in a great deal of heavy fighting. One such battle occurred when the unit was attached to 340. Infanterie-Division near Spasskoje in early August, 1942.  The savage battles continued into September when the Abteilung was involved in the battles in the area of Malwerika northwest of Woronesh. The unit remained in Woronesh and held off over four weeks of Soviet counteroffensives in October and early November 1942.

As Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654 was largely attached to infantry formations during this time, the best list to use to field it would be the Grenadierkompanie on page 60 of Eastern Front. You can use the Grenadier Anti-tank Gun Platoon on page 65 or the Anti-tank Gun Platoon on page 87 to represent the unit. I’ve generally based the restrictions on the support units based on the date of production rather than direct evidence that a specific vehicle actually served in the same sector as 654 Panzer-Abteilung. In a few cases there is evidence that a unit did not serve in the same area (such as the Bunkerflak), so these have also been disallowed for historical forces.

Fighting in the Soviet Union – Attached to 45. Infanterie-Division – January through March 1942

Grenadierkompanie – Eastern Front p. 60
·         Compulsory:  As required by list
·         654. Panzerjäger-Abteilung:  Grenadier Anti-tank Gun Platoon (p. 65) and/or the Anti-tank Gun Platoon on (p. 87) armed with the 3.7cm PaK 36 only
·         Appropriate Support:  Any with the exceptions noted below
·         Not appropriate for the unit at this time: 
o   1942 or 1943 Schwere Panzer Platoons
o   Some of the variants of the Mittlere Panzer Platoon (armed with Panzer III Ausf L, M, or N or armed with Panzer IV Ausf F2, G, or G (late))
o   Assault Tank Platoon
o   Some of the variants of the Assault Gun Platoon (armed with the StuG F, F/8, G or StuH42)
o   Tank-hunter Platoon (armed with anything BUT the Panzerjäger I),
o   Tracked Panzerspäh Platoon
o   Half-tracked Panzerspäh Platoon
o   Bunker FlaK Platoon

Don Offensive and later defensive battles in the Soviet Union – Attached to 340. Infanterie-Division, 57. Infanterie-Division (and likely other units as well) – April through November 1942

Grenadierkompanie – Eastern Front p. 60
·         Compulsory:  As required by list
·         654. Panzerjäger-Abteilung:  Grenadier Anti-tank Gun Platoon (p. 65) and/or the Anti-tank Gun Platoon on (p. 87) armed with the 7.5cm PaK40 or the 7.5cm Pak97/38 gun only
·         Appropriate Support:  Any with the exceptions noted below
·         Not appropriate for the unit at this time: 
o   1943 Schwere Panzer Platoon
o   Some of the variants of the Mittlere Panzer Platoon (armed with Panzer III Ausf M or armed with Panzer IV Ausf G (late))
o   Assault Tank Platoon (armed with the Brummbär)
o   Some of the variants of the Assault Gun Platoon (armed with the StuG G or StuH42)
o   Tank-hunter Platoon (armed with anything BUT the Panzerjäger I, Marder I, Marder II, or Marder III (7.62cm),
o   Tracked Panzerspäh Platoon
o   Bunker FlaK Platoon

To model the early 1942 incarnation of the unit still armed with the 3.7cm PaK36 you can continue to use the 3.7cm PaK 36 (GE501). Starting in April, the unit upgraded to new guns, so you can use the 7.5cm PaK 40 gun (GE520), though there are a few alternate parts codes you could use as well, just ensure that the crew is a Grenadier crew.  The 5cm PaK38 gun (GE510) is supposed to include a 7.5 Pak97/38 gun option, or you could try the old special order code for the 7.5 Pak97/38 gun (GSO503). According to the unit’s history, they were equipped with French Unic trucks for towing purposes as well as “Utiliti tractors.” As of November 6, 1942, the unit listed Renault tractors with trailers among the inventory which was no longer serviceable, so one could conceivably use something like the Renault UE Carrier & Trailer (FR211) as a tow vehicle as an alternative to the 3-ton truck. As before, this would have no game impact other than providing visual uniqueness to the force. Normal German trucks are, of course, also acceptable!


December, 1942 - Partial upgrade to self-propelled anti-tank guns

Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654 was pulled out of the line around November 20, 1942. After a road march through blizzard conditions, the unit finally arrived on Bogutschar on December 9, 1942. At this point the unit was assigned to support an Italian division, though the specific division is not reported. The limitations of towed anti-tank guns had become apparent by this time and the unit had made several requests for self-propelled mounts. These were finally delivered in the form of Marder II tank destroyers (the 7.5cm PaK 40 gun mounted on the Panzer II chassis in an open topped superstructure). 

Initially only the second company fielded the new self-propelled anti-tank guns, while the other two companies soldiered on with towed guns, which were still a mixture of  7.5cm PaK 40 and 7.5cm PaK 97/38 (f) guns. Nine Marder II were initially delivered on December 11, 1942 with another 16 arriving on December 19.

The Soviets launched an offensive on Decmber 16, 1942 near Kantemirowka in the Don Basin. Unfortunately for the men of Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654, most of the Italian forces fled before the offensive even reached their positions resulting in several anti-tank guns having to be destroyed by their crews. The situation was so desperate on December 19, that the Marders of the second company had to defend the rail yard from Soviet tanks while their next allotment of self-propelled guns was unloaded!

By this time the first and third companies were fighting separate battles. The first and third companies were still in the vicinity of the Italian forces, while the second company with its Marders attempted a counter-attack against the Soviets on December 21 along with a Kampfgruppe of German forces. While the counterattack was unsuccessful, the second company did manage to destroy several enemy tanks.  By this time the entire position was in danger of encirclement, but managed to break through on Christmas 1942 only to find themselves surrounded again near Tschertkowo.

Through January and early February, the Abteilung continued to face desperate fighting to stem the Soviet advance fighting alongside 320. Infanterie-Division and 298. Infanterie-Division. By early February, the unit was largely spent and was pulled out of the line and the roughly 200 surviving members of the battalion were given three weeks leave.

Winter defensive and offensive operations  – While under Italian Command and fighting alongside the Italians– Decmeber 2, 1942 – mid January, 1943 (?)

Battaglione Alpini – Eastern Front p. 146 – or – Battaglione Fucilieri – Eastern Front p. 142
·         Compulsory:  As required by list
·         Add 654. Panzerjäger-Abteilung:  
o   Anti-tank Gun Platoon (p. 87) armed with the 7.5cm PaK40 or the 7.5cm Pak97/38 gun only – note technically the PaK97/38 option is not allowed by the list, though it appears to be historically correct
o   Tank-hunter Platoon (p. 86) armed with the Marder II – note technically this option is not allowed by the list, though it appears to be historically correct at least in a few limited instances
·         Appropriate Support:  Any


Winter defensive and offensive operations  – German Kampfgruppe and action with 320. Infanterie-Division and 298. Infanterie-Division – Decmeber 16, 1942 – February 6, 1943

Grenadierkompanie – Eastern Front p. 60
·         Compulsory:  As required by list
·         Add 654. Panzerjäger-Abteilung: 
o   Grenadier Anti-tank Gun Platoon (p. 65)
o   Anti-tank Gun Platoon (p. 87) armed with the 7.5cm PaK40 or the 7.5cm Pak97/38 gun only
o   Tank-hunter Platoon (p. 86) armed with the Marder II
·         Appropriate Support:  Any with the exceptions noted below
·         Not appropriate for the unit at this time: 
o   1943 Schwere Panzer Platoon
o   Some of the variants of the Mittlere Panzer Platoon (armed with Panzer III Ausf M or armed with Panzer IV Ausf G (late))
o   Assault Tank Platoon (armed with the Brummbär)
o   Some of the variants of the Assault Gun Platoon (armed with the StuG G or StuH42)
o   Tracked Panzerspäh Platoon
o   Bunker FlaK Platoon

To model the unit at this time, the towed guns are essentially unchanged from earlier in the year. For the self-propelled anti-tank guns, use Marder II (GE103). Given this is still late 1942, the vehicles were still likely in overall Panzer gray, and may have had whitewash, but surviving pictures of the unit equipped with Marders appear to be quite rare.


Enter the Ferdinand and the Battle of Kursk

With the catastrophic loss of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, Hitler was desperate to regain the strategic initiative on the Eastern Front. The Kursk Salient appeared to represent an ideal opportunity to cut off the head of the Soviet advance and reverse the defeats of the previous months. Hitler also wanted to bring several new “wonder weapons” to the fore, which would hopefully serve to answer the superiority of Soviet Armor. Unfortunately for the Germans, the Soviets recognized the danger and began to reinforce the salient in depth. Despite strong evidence that the Soviets were well-prepared for an attack, and disregarding the advice of his senior staff, Hitler ordered the attack to proceed. Worse yet, the attack was delayed for several weeks while these new “wonder weapons” could be shipped to the front!

Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654 was one of the many units upgraded and chosen to participate in the attack on Kursk. Initially it was to be transitioned to the Hornisse tank destroyer, but at the end of April, 1943 the order came through that they would be upgraded to Germany’s largest, and most powerfully armed and armored vehicle, the Ferdinand tank destroyer. Based on the Porsche VK 4501 chassis, the Ferdinand (named after Ferdinand Porsche) was armed with the massive 8.8cm PaK 43 L/71 gun, which could cut through any Soviet armor with ease. With the issuing of their new mounts, the battalion became Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654.

For the offensive, Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654 was assigned to schweres Panzerjäger-Regiment 656.  The regiment fielded battalions with several new weapon systems.  In addition to Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654, the regiment fielded its sister unit Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653, also equipped with the Ferdinand, and Sturmpanzer Battalion 216, which fielded the new Brummbär assault gun.  The regiment also represented the debut of the Borgward BIV, and were supported by Funklenk Kompanie 313 and 314. The primary tank strength of the unit was provided by several Panzerkampfwagen III (12 Panzer III with the short barreled 5cm gun, 7 Panzer III with the long barreled 5cm gun, and 3 Panzer III N)

There is not enough space here to detail the full course of the fighting during the Kursk operation, but the unit faced several difficulties from its outset on July 5, 1943 including lanes of advance covered by minefields. The unit managed to destroy several Soviet tanks at ranges as long as 3,000 meters, though the accompanying infantry often could not keep pace because of murderous Soviet artillery fire.  Over the next several days, the battalion served as a mobile reserve knocking out many enemy tanks until the offensive began to stall by July 17, 1942. At that point the full regiment was pulled back to Orel before the whole sector was evacuated. In the meantime Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 654 supported 383. Infanterie-Division and 292. Infanterie-Division sealing off enemy penetrations.

By early August, most of the mechanically temperamental Ferdinands had been pulled back for refitting. Officially Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654 handed all of the vehicles over to their sister battalion, Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653. Ultimately all of the surviving Ferdinands (roughly 45 of the 89 originally produced) were returned to the factory for refitting. However, as a unit schweres Panzerjäger-Regiment 656 performed very well during the offensive, having destroyed over 500 enemy tanks along with another 200 anti-tank guns and artillery pieces.

Kursk Offensive (Operation Zitadelle) and Soviet counter offensive (Operation Kutuzov)  – Schweres Panzerjäger-Regiment 656 – July 5 – 30, 1943

Unfortunately there is no list which allows you to take the Ferdinand as a combat platoon choice at this time, so you’ll need to build an appropriate force using another list as a basis.

Mittlere Panzerkompanie – Eastern Front p. 32
·         Compulsory:  As required by list, though the force should be built around the Panzer III:
o   Up to 12 Panzer III G, H, or J (early)
o   Up to 7 Panzer III J (late), L, or M
o   Up to 3 Panzer III N
·         Add 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung:  Tank-hunter Platoon (p. 86) armed with the Ferdinand
·         Historical Flavor: 
o   Assault Tank Platoon (p. 85) armed with the Brummbär
o   Radio Control Tank Platoon (p. 85) armed with the Stug G and Borgward
o   Light Panzer Platoon (p. 33) with up to 3 Panzer II F
·         Other support:  As allowed by list
·         Inappropriate for this list:
o   Bunker FlaK platoon

Panzergrenadierkompanie – Eastern Front p. 46
·         Compulsory:  As required by list
·         Add 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung:  Tank-hunter Platoon (p. 86) armed with the Ferdinand
·         Historical Flavor: 
o   Assault Tank Platoon (p. 85) armed with the Brummbär
o   Radio Control Tank Platoon (p. 85) armed with the Stug G and Borgward
o   Mittlere Panzer Platoon based on the Panzer III bearing in mind regimental maximums:
§  Up to 12 Panzer III G, H, or J (early)
§  Up to 7 Panzer III J (late), L, or M
§  Up to 3 Panzer III N
·         Other support:  As allowed by list
·         Inappropriate for this list:
o   Bunker FlaK platoon


Kursk Offensive (Operation Zitadelle) and Soviet counter offensive (Operation Kutuzov)  – In support of 383. Infanterie-Division and 292. Infanterie-Division – July 21 – 30, 1943

Grenadierkompanie – Eastern Front p. 60
·         Compulsory:  As required by list
·        Add 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung:  Tank-hunter Platoon (p. 86) armed with the Ferdinand
·         Historical Flavor: 
o   Assault Tank Platoon (p. 85) armed with the Brummbär
·         Other support:  As allowed by list

Modeling the unit at Kursk provides several new options, not the least of which is the massive Ferdinand tank destroyer (GE131). The unit’s Ferdinands were painted in overall German panzer dark yellow with green overspray. Numbers were generally solid white. The first company’s numbers were all in the 500’s, while the second and third company’s were in the 600’s and 700’s respectively. You also have the opportunity to field the early Brummbär (GE129) as well as the Borgward B IV (GE610) in the same army, though the points costs may get a bit steep!

Around August 19, 1943, the unit began its re-deployment back to France. The next vehicle the unit would field would be the Jagdpanther tank destroyer which mounted the Ferdinand’s powerful 8.8cm gun in a far more mobile platform. However, that unit would not see action until 1944 and will be covered in Part 3 of this series covering 654. Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Unit Through the War in Flames of War: 654 Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung – Part 1

With the release of Barbarossa and the upcoming release of Berlin, Battlefront will have effectively given coverage to the full time period comprising the Second World War for the European and North African theaters. Granted, there are many areas and operations which have received little or no specific coverage, but for the first time the full period from the invasion of Poland in 1939 to VE day in 1945 will be covered. As an avid history buff, I like to follow combat history of a unit from its inception and deployment straight through to the end of the war (or its dissolution). As a regular feature going forward, I’ll pick one of my favorite units and follow them through the war in Flames of War lists starting with this article featuring 654 Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung.


Early War – The Fall of France

Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654 started its service as a motorized anti-tank unit equipped with the 3.7cm PaK36 anti-tank gun. The unit received a mixture of vehicles to tow the anti-tank guns, mostly civilian Opel trucks which were later supplemented with British and French vehicles captured during the conquest of France. These served alongside Krupp-Protze trucks and 1 ton half-tracks (Sd.Kfz. 10).  The unit did not participate in the campaigns in Poland, Denmark, or Norway and instead defended Germany’s frontier from any Allied advance on Germany’s Western border.

The unit’s baptism by fire came in mid-May, 1940 during the German offensive through The Netherlands and Belgium as a part of 6. Armee. From May 14-16, 1940, the unit was deployed in the Hannut-Gembloux area where it suffered numerous casualties, but also stopped an enemy armored advance.

The specific units the Abteilung was attached to during this time were:

·         May 10-11, 1940:  Headquarters, XVL Armeekorps
·         May 11-12, 1940: 3. Panzer-Division
·         May 13 through July 7, 1940:  4. Panzer-Division
·         July 7-9, 1940:  Headquarters 12. Armee
·         July 10-13, 1940:  Headquarters 2. Armee
·         July 13-?, 1940:  Divisional artillery of 3. Infanterie-Division

For the majority of the French campaign, the unit was assigned to 4. Panzer-Division, which was armed with a total of 135 Panzer I, 105 Panzer II, 40 Panzer III, and 24 Panzer IV tanks. The best list to use to actually field Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654 would be the one of the infantry lists which represent support for the Panzer divisions like the Schützenkompanie list on page 74 or the Panzerschützenkompanie on page 78 of Blitzkrieg.  The Kradschützenkompanie would also work. The anti-tank guns of the Abteilung itself could be represented either by the Schützen Anti-tank Gun Platoon on page 77 or the Anti-tank Gun Platoon on page 103.

Battle of France – Attached to 4. Panzer Division – May 13 through July 7, 1940

Schützenkompanie – Blitzkrieg p. 74
·         Compulsory:  As required by list
·         Add 654. Panzerjäger-Abteilung: One or more Schützen Anti-tank Gun Platoons (p. 77) and/or Anti-tank Gun Platoon (p. 103)
·         Not appropriate for this unit:  Bunker Flak Platoon, Czech Panzer Platoon, Assault Gun Platoon
·         Appropriate Support:  Any allowable by list

Panzerschützenkompanie – Blitzkrieg p. 78
·         Compulsory:  As required by list
·         Add 654. Panzerjäger-Abteilung: One or more Schützen Anti-tank Gun Platoons (p. 77) and/or Anti-tank Gun Platoon (p. 103)
·         Not appropriate for this unit:  Bunker Flak Platoon, Czech Panzer Platoon, Assault Gun Platoon
·         Appropriate Support:  Any allowable by list

Kradschützenkompanie – Blitzkrieg p. 80
·         Compulsory:  As required by list
·         Add 654. Panzerjäger-Abteilung:  One or more Schützen Anti-tank Gun Platoons (p. 77) and/or Anti-tank Gun Platoon (p. 103)
·         Not appropriate for this unit:  Bunker Flak Platoon, Czech Panzer Platoon, Assault Gun Platoon
·         Appropriate Support:  Any allowable by list

To model Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654, use the 3.7cm PaK 36 (GE501). Allowable tow vehicles include the Kfz 70 truck, but feel free to substitute Opel trucks (GE 430 or 431) or Sd.Kfz. 10 (GE273) halftracks.  They’ll have no impact on the game, but will give the Abteilung some unique flavor.


Early War – Barbarossa

Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654 was next employed during the invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa. The unit retained its 3.7cm PaK 36 guns and was equipped with a mixture of German, British, and French trucks and prime movers, and was initially attached to XII. Armee-Korps serving alongside several units, including an assault gun platoon beginning in June 1941.  By August it was serving as a part of 2. Panzerarmee, and at least part of the unit served alongside 3. Panzer-Division.

During this time 3. Panzer-Division fielded 58 Panzer II, 29 Panzer III (3.7cm), 81 Panzer III (5cm), 32 Panzer IV, and 15 command tanks. Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654 used a mixture of German prime movers and foreign trucks, though the Kfz 70 truck was becoming more common. Given the wide array of forces represented by the units the Abteilung was attached to, just about any list from Barbarossa with a towed anti-tank element could be chosen, including some of the new digital lists.

Operation Barbarossa – Attached to XII. Armee-Korps and 2. Panzerarmee – June 21 through December, 1941

Panzerschützenkompanie – Barbarossa p. 18
·         Compulsory:  As required by list
·         Add 654. Panzerjäger-Abteilung:  One or more Schützen Anti-tank Gun Platoons (p. 23) and/or Divisional Anti-tank Gun Platoons (p. 103) armed with the 3.7cm PaK 36 only
·         Not appropriate for this unit:  Czech Panzer Platoon, Flammpanzer Platoon
·         Appropriate Support:  Any allowable by list – note because the unit was attached to 3. Panzer-Division, the Dicker Max in the Heavy Tank-hunter Platoon is an appropriate support choice.

Schützenkompanie – Barbarossa p. 20
·         Compulsory:  As required by list
·         Add 654. Panzerjäger-Abteilung:  One or more Schützen Anti-tank Gun Platoons (p. 23) and/or Divisional Anti-tank Gun Platoons (p. 103) armed with the 3.7cm PaK 36 only
·         Not appropriate for this unit:  Czech Panzer Platoon, Flammpanzer Platoon
·         Appropriate Support:  Any allowable by list – note because the unit was attached to 3. Panzer-Division, the Dicker Max in the Heavy Tank-hunter Platoon is an appropriate support choice.

Kradschützenkompanie – Barbarossa p. 24
·         Compulsory:  As required by list
·         Add 654. Panzerjäger-Abteilung:  One or more Schützen Anti-tank Gun Platoons (p. 23) and/or Divisional Anti-tank Gun Platoons (p. 103) armed with the 3.7cm PaK 36 only
·         Not appropriate for this unit:  Czech Panzer Platoon, Flammpanzer Platoon
·         Appropriate Support:  Any allowable by list – note because the unit was attached to 3. Panzer-Division, the Dicker Max in the Heavy Tank-hunter Platoon is an appropriate support choice.

Modeling the unit in this era is essentially similar to the French Campaign. The unit did make use of capture French and British trucks for a time, though the exact models used is unclear in many cases.


The next segment will look at Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654 in the Mid-War period as the unit is first upgraded to more powerful towed anti-tank guns and is ultimately moved to self-propelled anti-tank guns and heavy tank hunters.

Links to the other parts of the article:

Part 2 covering Mid-War
Part 3 covering Late-War

Thursday, March 5, 2015

State of the Game Update from John-Paul

They say good things come to those who wait, and in the case of this year's "State of the Union" update for Flames of War from John-Paul, the old axiom certainly holds true. Typically we see this update in January or early February, so there had been rampant speculation as to why we haven't seen one so far this year. As it turns out Battlefront's plans have been unusually ambitious this year, and there were many surprises!

With Nachtjaeger already hitting the shelves, the first new products in the queue are the already announced plastic miniatures to support this release. Coming quickly on their heels will be the new Open Fire sets, which will also include plastic miniatures (which I hope are the new updated ones rather than the original plastic miniatures which had... problems...).

In April, a new Vietnam release covering the fighting in the Mekong delta. This supplement should be fairly unique as fighting in "river terrain" represents a major departure for Flames of War. Generally rivers have been obstacles, not primary terrain and it will be interesting to see how they translate the game mechanics to the new environment.


Also in April we'll see the release of a new painting guide called Colours of War which coincides with the release of the new paint range. While I'm excited about having a new painting guide out, I'm very disappointed that Battlefront has made a break with Vallejo for their new color range (not least of which because I'm heavily invested in Vallejo paints for my human figures - though not my vehicles - and I don't intend to replace those paints until they run out).


In the article covering the new paint range, James Brown indicates, "The earliest feedback on the colour names suggested that they might not be to everyone’s taste. To be honest, that’s fine. People will get used to them." Put me in that group that finds the names poorly chosen, and as to getting "used to them" - meh - not so much. Something tells me it's more than just a few people that have expressed concerns about the marketing direction. From the chart below you can see the new paint range names.


"Comrade Khaki?" Spare me from Games Workshop. The new names are teeny bob. Granted, the Open Fire sets are designed to bring new players into the game, and young players are a key demographic, but you alienating your current player base to appeal to a new demographic is never a good business decision - see fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons.  That being said, expect to see a rough translation sheet with Vallejo equivalents in a future blog.


June gets everything back on track with the close of the war in Europe - Berlin! This book should be very interesting, even just from a modeling perspective. Battlefront has given us some teasers with a Waffentraeger as well as Stalins with bedspring armor. Once again Battlefront has promised several new plastic kits for this era - so building that new army should be more affordable as well! Later on the update alludes to some urban buildings in plastic that will enable urban battlefields without the problems and cost associated with large resin buildings.



In August, the next Great War supplement comes out, and it adds a lot of new forces and equipment people were disappointed weren't in the original with the addition of French and American forces. New miniatures appear in the form of the "French Schneider CA, French Char Saint Chamond and the British Mark V." Now I just need to find time to paint my existing World War I armies...

In October the first real "shock" of the year hits - Cold War gone Hot in the Fulda Gap. Having recently been through Germany, it is amazing how much things have changed since the 80's. With the release of Viet Nam and Arab-Israeli War supplements, there has been rampant speculation as to when or if Battlefront would look at this era. It also appears to have been hotly requested on the forum. Given the realities of modern warfare with helicopters, guided munitions, and tanks that can fire effectively on the move - it will be very interesting to see how the Flames of War mechanic adapts to this new era.

With the release of the Berlin supplement, Battlefront's effective coverage of World War II is complete from the first shots in Poland in 1939 (well, you can also even technically do the Battles of Khalkhyn Gol from May of 1939 as well) to V-E day. However, apart from the one early war supplement, there has been absolutely no coverage of the Asia-Pacific theater. It's been a glaring gap that many fans have been clamoring for. Come December and next January we'll get a US book and a Japanese book covering, get this, several periods. It remains to be seen how it will integrate with the rest of the game, but I'm drooling at this point.

So, for the new releases I'm sort of in this boat:


Finally, Battlefront acknowledges several production issues over the past few years, and appears to have spent a good deal of time and effort in improving their production speed. The update includes a lot of photos of the production plant including a guy doing something I've done many times... pouring resin.


So the next year appears to be full of exciting releases for Flames of War, including some long-awaited supplements. Mid-War appears to not be getting an update at this point which is going to relieve some groups and disappoint others. However, with the release of Flames of War Digital, there is at least a possibility that we could see something there. So what are you looking most forward to? Feel free to discuss in comments below!