Campaign for North Rivett day 4 Posted on 12 Mar 23:00 , 0 comments

July 4 1941 dawns bright and clear but the birdsong and gentle rustling of the Pripet forests is destroyed with a cacophony of shot and shell as 137 divisions of German troops, 17 of them Panzers, supported by 15 divisions of Rumanian allies burst out of Poland and Rumania to wreak havoc on our peaceful (with the possible exceptions of Iraq and Iran) socialist motherland. 

The first waves are devastating driving deep into Byelorussia and the Ukraine destroying 2 soviet armies serving in a vain attempt as the Soviet tripwire to slow the Axis advance.

By the end of the month, the Wehrmacht had advanced 500 km inside the Soviet Union both north

and south of the Pripet marshes against minimal opposition driving right up to the gates of Vitebsk, Kiev and Krivoy Rog.

But the Soviet high command, Stavka, recognised that faced with such overwhelming force by highly trained and experienced German troops, that the motherland faced no chance on the open steppes of the Ukraine and must instead form their defence line anchored on the Dvina and Dnieper rivers. This main line of defence was supported by a series of hero cities where fanatical communist workers and peasants armed with nothing more than obsolete rifles, molotov cocktails and socialist ideals, were ordered to fight to the last man and the last bullet.

The first of these to be assailed was Odessa defended by 2 fortress armies. 4 crack Wehrmacht corps attacked only to be murderously repulsed for the loss of half their army. Unfortunately the valiant defenders also lost half their defenders as well and it was only a matter of time that the bloodied Germans came back and finally was captured on the 22nd August.

In the north Minsk fell quickly on the 7th August with only minor losses to the Wehrmacht but the Vitebsk defenders were made of sterner stuff holding out until mid-September repulsing wave after wave of fanatical nazis and suffering appalling casualties before the courageous Soviet warriors finally succumbed.

These heroic actions, though costly in men, gave the Soviets valuable time to organise their defence along the Dniepr and Dvina. Pskov, nestled behind the Velikaya river, proved an insurmountable barrier in the north, while Smolensk and the upper Dnieper held the Germans in the centre.

The Pripet marshes were impassable to the panzers which left the southern steppe as the only viable axis of advance.Kiev was overrun on the 24th September and Krivoy Rog almost completely surrounded before a last minute Soviet withdrawal to Dnepropetrosk. However this didn't save them as the Germans launched an attack in early October and took this second key city on the 9th.

Just when things looked truly bleak, General mud finally came to Russia's rescue and the Wehrmacht summer offensive finally ground to a halt short of their primary objective, crossing the Dnieper.

At the end of the month the front had stabilised but with few soviet units in the north and few cities to organise reinforcements there, the crisis was far from over.

 North and Central Russian front Oct 31 1941


 Soviets solidify Dnieper line Oct 1941

 In the Battle of the Atlantic meanwhile, the German and Italian submarines continued their stunning successes against the British merchant fleet sinking another 4 million tonnes between July and October 1941 for no reply apart from some lightly scratched U boats by defective depth charges, in what the submariners quickly dubbed their 'happy period'.

To make matters worse, in an attempt to crush Italian resistance in North Africa, Churchill ordered Force H into the eastern mediterranean led by the flagship Ark Royal and 3 other carriers escorting half the precious British amphibious fleet.

On the 16th September the plucky Italian navy sortied to teach their impudent foes a lesson and that lesson, when they met the British off Cape Matapan 2 days later, was short, sharp and very very painful.

 In the most mammoth air battle in history, 1200 Italian land based fighters and bombers supported by 300 German He-115Bs destroyed 300 British beaufighters and 110 British carrier planes for virtually no loss, then bombed the amphibious task force sending it to the bottom of the ocean, 400,000 tonnes of shipping in all. The British had no choice but to flee leaving the Mediterranean, Mare Nostrum.

While all these dramatic events were occurring across Europe, in the Pacific the Chinese front had come to a standstill, but the Kidō Butai was stirring with large carrier task forces spreading out across the Pacific from their major naval base in the east, Truk 

 to their major base in the west, Cam Ranh Bay,

each task force including large amphibious ships chock full of Marine and Guards units armed to the teeth.

What are they after? The rubber of Malaya, the oil of the Netherlands East Indies, the major British naval bases such as Rabaul and the Gibraltar of the east, Singapore, or all of them? And more.

Whatever their wicked intentions, Churchill sleeps very uneasily tonight.