Monday, 6 May 2013

Guardsmen in the Fall, Part 1: Battle at Lipovka

Everyone has heard of the T-34, the KV, the IS, the Tiger, the Panther. These tanks are some of the most iconic vehicles ever built. However, many lesser known, but nonetheless important, vehicles also entered the field of battle.

One of these vehicles was the T-40. A meek amphibious scout tank, it did not receive a real cannon, just a DShK heavy machine gun. Even in this role, it was soon replaced by the cheaper and better armed T-60, and later T-70. However, these small tanks managed to fight fiercely throughout WWII. This series of articles covers seven battles with these tanks in the 6th Guards Tank Brigade (then 1st Tank Brigade). The quality of both the typewriter and the scan is not so great, so a number of the village names might be incorrect.

1st Tank Brigade, receiving new T-40 tanks

"A short report on the actions of the 6th Guards Tank Brigade from September 17th, 1941 to February 20th, 1942.

1. Battle at Lipovka

On September 18th, 1941, we finished offloading at the railroad station Akhtyrka. The brigade was deployed to a new region, and, by 7:00 on September 21st, concentrated in the vicinity of Dvisvka and Reznikov (20 km south-east of Romny). 

Overall situation on September 21st: the enemy directed Guderian's second group towards Romny, occupying Hmelev (37th Tank Division), Romny (10th Motorized Division), and Lohvitsa (3rd Tank Division). Additionally, the SS division "Reich" was present, consisting of four infantry regiments reinforced with tanks. 

Our forces consisted of Major-General Vylov's 5th and 9th cavalry divisions, 6th Guards Independent Tank Brigade, 129th Independent Tank Brigade, 1st Guards Independent Division, defending:
  • 9th CD: Pravduki, Pogonaya Prinytsa
  • 5th CD: with a company of T-34s of the 6th Guards ITB, Pogonaya Prinitsa, Perekrestovo, Bobrik.
  • 129th ITB: heavily undermanned, east of the 9th ID, with HQ at Nedrigailov
  • 6th Guards ITB: Reznikov, Lipovka
  • 1st Guards ID: Nedrigailov 
  • The 227th ID defended 20 km north-east of Nedrigailov
The enemy had an encircling position, especially on the left flank, which was threatened by the 3rd Tank Division and SS division "Reich". Subsequent actions show that the enemy was planning to attack from Romny, to the east, and paralyze the main forces of the mechanized group, and then strike with the 3rd Tank Division and "Reich" division from south-west, cut off the retreat at river Horon, and destroy the group.

On September 21st, the 6th Guards ITB, missing a company of T-34s, was ordered to, remaining in the region of Reznikov and Lipovka, block the approach of the enemy from the south, flank, and rear of the 5th CD. After the 5th CD is replaced by elements of the 1st Guards ID, retreat together to the Semenovka region.

The brigade took defensive positions. A company of T-40 tanks fortified west and south of Reznikov. 1st Tank Regiment sent a company of medium tanks and a company of heavy tanks to the south of Lipovka, facing south, and two companies of T-40 tanks, facing west. 

At 10:30, on September 22nd, elements of the SS division "Reich" advanced in the direction of Dolgaya Luka to Lipovka. The advance was supported by mortar fire, 105 mm howitzer fire, and a company of tanks.

At 700-800 meters, the heavy and medium tanks opened fire. After taking heavy casualties, the infantry was suppressed, and their tanks retreated. Taking advantage of the enemy's inaction, the 1st Tank Battalion of the 1st Tank Regiment counterattacked, reaching the forest north of Dolgaya Luka, destroying with fire and tracks enemy infantry and armament. The tanks returned to their rendezvous point. 

Despite their losses, the enemy brought in reserves and resumed their attack. The attack was not successful. A motorized infantry company was assigned to clear out the enemy, joined by a battalion of the 1st Guards Infantry Division. 

The battle lasted all day. 5th and 9th Cavalry Divisions retreated to the east, to a new defensive line. In this battle, the enemy widely used snipers and "cuckoo birds" [Note: slang for snipers in trees"]. After the main enemy elements retreated, the "cuckoo birds" would remain, firing at commanders.

Elements of the brigade, during the day, executed 7 attacks, as a result of which, the enemy was defeated, and scattered. Enemy losses include:
  • AT guns: 13
  • 105 mm howitzers: 4
  • Mortars: 7
  • Motorcycles: 16
  • Fuel trucks: 2
  • Tanks: 6
  • Aircraft: 1
  • Infantry: two companies
Our losses:
  • T-40 tanks: 4
  • Killed: 32
  • Wounded: 56
  • Missing: 11"

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