Tuesday 1 July 2014

107th Independent Tank Battalion

Some of you may remember the 107th Battalion from Baryshev's adventure. Later on in the year, the supply situation was still pretty tough, and these tanks were still in use.

"Report on the combat actions of the 107th Independent Tank Battalion from August 27th to October 1st, 1942

On August 27th, 1942, the enemy was defending at the Voronkovo-Height 70.9 line with 3/355, 3/344 infantry regiments, 223rd infantry division, and elements of the 2/322 regiment, 207th division, with concentrations at Voronovo, Nameless Height, on the west shore of lakes Dolgoye and Zadnee. 

The defenses are saturated with a large number of machinegun and cannon pillboxes, connected with trenches. The whole forward region is covered in several layers of trenches with positions for machineguns and anti-tank rifles. 

The closest enemy reserves were in the forest, up to two platoons of infantry north-west and south-west from the Gorohovskoye swamp, up to a company of infantry at Karbusel, and up to a battalion at Turyshkino. 

It is presumed that there is a rear line of defense at Turyshkino and further. The artillery is positioned in forests west of lakes Dolgoye and Zadnee, and Karbusel. The front line runs through height 52.1, east of the shores of lake Dolgoye, lake Zadnee, marker 65.5, height 70.9. 

Our neightbours to the right are the 286th Infantry Division, with the objective to capture the points at Porechye and Voronovo with a further objective to strike at Turyshkino. To our left is the 1st Independent Guards Mountain Infantry Brigade, tasked with taking the line at Gladkoye and Lizhevo lakes.

Our task: the 327th Infantry Division and 107th Independent Tank Battalion, as well as the 40th Artillery Regiment, attacks in two echelons and penetrates the enemy defenses at Voronkovo-Height 70.9, destroys the resistance on the west shores of lakes Dolgoye and Zadnee, and captures the region of Karbusel. The unit then moves to the Turyshkino-Malukse road, fortifies there, protecting themselves from a counterattack from the right (coming from Shapki), advances along the railroad, and, in cooperation with 1st IGMIBr destroys the enemy defending at Lodvin and Malukse, while sending one regiment north-west along the railroad to aid elements of the 286th Infantry Division in capturing Voronovo.

The terrain in the area of attack switched between open and forested. The enemy was, in all cases, positioned on the western edge of clearings, stumps, swamps, fields, or lakes. The ground alternated in a series of hills and troughs, letting the enemy position favourably. At tactical depth, the terrain was split into individual pockets by hills and swamps surrounding them.

A company of medium tanks from 107th ITB was assigned to the 1102nd Infantry Regiment with the objective of attacking in two echelons, penetrating defenses in the river Nazia sector at lake Dolgoye, and, defending from the west,  attack along the railroad to assist elements of the 286th division in Voronovo, preventing the enemy from retreating to the west and north-west, finally reaching the line from the resort to the west shore of lake Barskoye.
Later, advance behind the right flank of the 1098th regiment, enter the forest south-west of Karbusel, capture the railroad between Turyshkino and marker 44.6, after which a battalion will be left to cover the division from the north-west and west, being ready to advance along the north-western shore of the Piskunovka river.

The second company of medium captured tanks is assigned to the 1100th Infantry Regiment with the objective of attacking in two echelons, penetrating the enemy defenses between lake Zadnee and marker 65.5, destroy the entrenchments south-west of lake Zadnee, and then capture the line from lake Gladkoye to the west shore of the Gladkoye swamp. Later, cooperating with the 1098th Infantry Regiment, strike Karbusel from the east and south, after which they should prepare to advance on the barracks past the railroad turn at Staraya Maluksa station.

After infantry captures Karbusel, the 107th ITB should concentrate in the forest east of Karbusel, and be transferred to the commander of the 327th Infantry Division. Remain ready to advance to the valley of the Niskunovka river and attack the Maluksa entrenchments.

The start of the offensive was scheduled for the morning of August 27th, 1942. August 26th was sunny, and the night of August 27th was starry. At night, the tanks were supposed to take their initial positions. The tanks had one full ammunition loadout and one load of fuel. In order to reach their positions, the tanks had to go through a swamp. Supplying them with ammunition and fuel was difficult. During the night, sappers were supposed to clear the mines on the path the tanks would take, make paths through fallen trees. Infantry was supposed to show paths through its positions. In order to make the men familiar with the order of battle, a joint reconnaissance was organized on the night of August 27th by tank company commanders, joined by platoon commanders, tank commanders, and tank drivers.

Tank commanders, in order to improve cooperation, were personally familiarized with infantry and artillery commanders, who were warned about captured tanks that could be confused for enemy tanks. 

On the orders of the commander of the 327th Infantry Division, the artillery barrage began at 6:00 on August 27th. At 7:50, the tanks attacked jointly with infantry. Despite theoretically agreed upon actions, the path of the tanks and infantry diverged. Namely, the infantry followed tanks until they got to the first enemy trenches, but did not progress further. The artillery barrage was ineffective. 

Having penetrated the first trench, our tanks rolled over them, clearing them of Germans. In panic, the Germans ran not only from the first, but from the second line of trenches. The tanks continued on, but infantry did not follow them. The Germans, seeing that tanks are not followed, started organizing a defense in the reserve trenches, starting machinegun, mortar, and artillery fire. As a result, the offensive slowed down. 

The commanders of the 107th ITB guided the battle personally. The battalion commander, commissar, and chief of staff were all at observation posts. All questions about the use of tanks were immediately resolved. 

Communications were organized in three points: a 5-AK radio connected the commander with tank radios, letting him know their positions at any time of the battle. The HQ and observation posts were connected by telephone. Each observation post commander had a communications operator.

During the battle, tanks fired intensively. Mostly, the tanks fired from short stops. At 350-400 meters before the enemy lines, the tanks deployed in a line with increased spaces between vehicles, in order to cover a larger portion of the front. The tanks approached at full speed, moving in sinusoidal waves, as a result of which not a single tank was lost on approach. Due to a small amount of tanks, there were no tanks in reserve.

  1. In all cases, tanks acted according to the previously agreed upon system and orders, following regulations of the Red Army.
  2. Our aircraft did not participate actively, neither before the battle nor during.
  3. The artillery barrage was very weak, especially in the area where the captured tank company was sent. As a result, enemy artillery had complete freedom to fire on our tanks.
  4. Tanks were not accompanied with artillery strikes.
  5. Infantry accompanying tanks did not have cannons.
  6. The anti-tank defense was well organized, composed of separate teams with anti-tank rifles, one per platoon.
  7. The infantry has difficulty following tanks, and goes down as first shots are fired, then does not get up, as a result of which it falls behind tanks, leaving them unprotected from enemy infantry.
  8. Infantry did not cooperate with tanks sufficiently. Infantry did not react to any signals given by tankers, did not indicate enemy machineguns, did not indicate pockets of resistance, did not signal to have tanks return to infantry.
  1. It is reasonable to use tanks only in cooperation with infantry.
  2. It is reasonable to have cannons accompany the tanks in order to destroy enemy positions with direct fire.
  3. Tanks should be placed in initial positions 3-4 hours before an attack. They should be brought as close as possible to the front, hiding the engine noises with artillery fire. Position the tanks angled forward or backward, with the intention to deflect a possible enemy attack with a tank counterattack, without wasting time on turning around.
  4. Tanks should always approach the front at high speeds, using bushes or terrain as cover. It is reasonable to place a smokescreen or begin bombarding the enemy positions as soon as tanks reach the front lines.
  5. Never stop a functional tank on the battlefield for the duration of the battle.
  6. Do not allow crews of functional tanks to exit the tank in order to raise the infantry.
  7. Open fire from all weapons on the move in order to put pressure on enemy morale. If he runs in panic, do not let him stop, chase him with tanks and fire. A portion of the tanks should pursue, while the rest stay and support our infantry.
  8. The best control of the battlefield can only be done if the commander is personally in one of the tanks, and selects a rendezvous point in tactical depth of the enemy territory for tanks to regroup in and adjust their objectives in light of the results of the previous stage.
    The commander's tank should remain in a position where the majority of the tanks are visible.
  9. The best method of communications is a radio, where commands and short orders are broadcast unencrypted. 
Technical supplies before battle were made with supplies in possession of the battalion. 1 ammunition load and one fuel load were brought to the tanks before the attack, and were resupplied later. The battalion's repair station was located 4-5 km from the starting positions.

Losses were largely from enemy AT artillery and mines.

The KV of the company commander was immobilized on a mine, after which it was hit and burned. Two T-34s, two PzIIIs, and 2 StuGs were hit by AT guns and rifles after passing the first line of trenches and were immobilized, later were set on fire and burned. One T-34 was lost after being directly hit with a bomb. 8 BT tanks dug in defensive positions were hit by artillery and bombs and were disabled, 4 of them burned.

In total, losses between August 27th and September 1st were 1 KV, 3 T-34s, 2 PzIIIs, 2 StuGs and 8 BTs, 16 tanks in total.

In the battle, the following fought with heroism:
  1. In the crew of company commander Senior Lieutenant Shigorev, the driver, Senior Sergeant Abramov, drove the tank in such a manner that allowed constant fire at the enemy. In the forests, he skilfully avoided stumps, forests, and when driving through a clearing, did so at maximum speed, performing necessary zig-zags.
  2. Junior Lieutenant Naumov's crew. Acting swiftly and daringly, they appeared behind enemy lines where they were not expected, and always reached success. Coolly and carefully, they opened fire at the enemy and suspicious locations.
  3. Junior Lieutenant Filipov's crew. In a captured German StuG, the crew demonstrated excellent cohesion. The driver drove the tank with confidence, skilfully maneuvering between enemy shells, overcoming barricades and swampy terrain. The commander fired from short stops and at full speed at the enemy and spotted artillery positions.
107th Independent Tank Battalion commander, Major Davydov
107th Independent Tank Battalion commissar, Battalion Commissar Sovchenko
HQ Chief, Captain Komov"

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