Tuesday 15 April 2014

Matilda vs Panther at Tartu

From L.V. Gorchakov's collection.

"Report on the combat actions of the 16th Independent Tank Order of the Red Banner Don Brigade from September 1st, 1944 to September 30th, 1944

1. The enemy, taking heavy losses in battles in the vicinity of Tartu was forced by our advancing forces to retreat North-East and North-West of Tartu, fortifying for a defense with elements of the 11th ID, 96th ID, 32 ID, 185 ID, 37th ID, 46th IR, 20th PD, and the Schmitken tank brigade on the Pyvvatu, Bol, [illegible], Paidla, Tila, and marker 44.6 line, simultaneously counterattacking with up to two regiments of infantry and with support of artillery and up to 50 tanks from the regions of [illegible], Zoraku and Marama, striving to take the city of Tartu.

2. The 2nd tank battalion was equipped with new tanks on August 30th, 1944. The brigade received orders from the commander of the North Combat Sector: by 15:00 on August 30th, march from Unipiha to the North-East outskirts of Tartu in order to deflect potential tank counterattacks in the directions of Anne-Tartu, Vadula-Tartu and [illegible]-Tartu.

At 8:00 on August 30th, the Brigade, composed of 18 Matildas, 2 SU-85, one T-34, an evac unit and an AA battery set out on the route of Unipiha-Tartu. Having completed the 25 km march by 14:00, the brigade reached the North-Eastern outskirts of Tartu, placing its tanks in AT ambushes.

The 1st and 3rd battalions were left in Unipiha without functional vehicles, awaiting evacuation and restoration.

According to the orders, the following was done:
  1. The objective was delivered and explained to all personnel.
  2. Observation of tank ambushes and approaches to enemy lines was performed.
  3. Cooperation with infantry and artillery was outlined.
  4. Anti-tank ambushes were set up on main directions: Kazake, height 62.1, Orova-Tila, Vakhi, and Myuta, composed of three tanks and a unit of mechanized infantry each. Reserves: the commander kept a reserve of 5 tanks and 80 men in the region of the wine factory with the goal of reinforcements of AT ambushes at threatened directions.
  5. Tank ambushes in the regions of Letsi and Varevy were prepared to deflect the enemy's counterattack at the river crossings.
Throughout September 1st and 2nd, the 2nd battalion, infantry, and AA battery securely covered Tartu. The enemy did not show activity, but opened artillery fire in the direction of our units. According to the orders of the 67th Army Armoured and Mechanized Forces commander, 8 tanks were removed from ambushes on the night of September 4th and transferred to Unipiha. Others were left in ambush. At 13:00 on September 4th, the enemy attacked with up to two regiments of infantry and 30 Panther tanks, supported with artillery. Enemy tanks moved out from [illegible], Vazula, Lane, Marama and reached Orova, Tila, and Myuta by 15:00.

9 Matilda tanks from the 2nd battalion deflected the attack from anti-tank positions at Kazake, height 62.1, Tila, Myuta, with support from infantry and artillery. The enemy, at the cost of heavy losses, pushed us back from [illegible], Tila, Vakhi, Myuta, having cut off five out out tanks form infantry at Tila and Vakhi. Further advances of enemy tanks and infantry was prevented by artillery fire. 7 Panther tanks were knocked out, as well as 5 APCs, and up to 200 soldiers and officers were killed.

Our losses: 5 tanks destroyed or disabled, 10 men killed or wounded.

At the same time, the enemy attempted to ferry infantry across lake Vyrtserv. Three tanks in ambush at Verevi opened heavy fire and did not allow the enemy to land. Since a landing was impossible, the enemy turned back, having lost one motorboat, two rowboats. Up to 75 soldiers and officers were killed or drowned.

Due to the developing situation, tanks from Unipiha were transferred over to the anti-tank regions at Radi, Cemetery, and Klaoze with the objective to not let enemy tanks and infantry through to the city. At this time, defenses East, North-East, and North of Tartu were reinforced by elements of the 1047th SPG regiment, 379th Guards SPG regiment, 332nd Guards SPG regiment and 351st Guards SPG regiment transferred over from other parts of the front.

The enemy transferred over two more regiments of infantry and up to 25 Panther tanks from Valga by 18:00 on September 5th, 1944, and with up to two regiments of infantry and 30 Panther tanks and 10 APCs, with artillery support, attacked from Pyvvatu, Tila, Vakhi, and Myuga, with the goal of capturing the city of Tartu.

The 2nd battalion and AA battery opened fire from the anti-tank regions at Kazake, Radi, and Klaoze, along with reinforcing tank units, in cooperation with infantry and artillery. With heavy losses, the enemy was forced to retreat to his starting positions, leaving up to 175 soldiers and officers, 9 tanks, and 5 APCs on the battlefield. From September 6th to 10th, the enemy did not attempt any engagements. limiting himself to periodic artillery fire.

The 2nd battalion and AA battery continued to hold their line at Kazake, height 62.1, Radi, Klaoze and Verevi, carefully observing the enemy.

According to orders from the commander of the North Combat Sector, the tanks still remaining in ambush were removed on the night from September 10th and September 11th and were relocated to Memmatsi by 5:00 on September 11th, 1944."

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