Opening shots on the eastern front - 1914

Background

This scenario was constructed using the principles of the Scenario Generation System, although the forces were approximated to allow for available figures. The battle was fought between Nick and Robin Sutton using the Great War Spearhead II rules, in January 2014.

The armies are almost entirely composed of HaT 20mm plastics figures. The Austrian cavalry are the exception - these are Irregular Miniatures figures,

The scenario simulated the first advance of the Austrian army into modern day Poland, perhaps towards the city of Lodz. Commanders were still expecting open warfare, and the Austrian army has struck before it has fully mobilised. The Austrian division is not at full strength.

The Austrian force for the scenario is a an infantry division consisting of three infantry regiments, two at full strength, and one below full strength. It is supported by two regiments of Austrian cavalry of regular morale complete with its own supporting battery of artillery, an on table regiment of 76.2mm guns, and an off table regiment of 104mm guns. All of the Russian units have random morale.

The Russian force, also a notional division, has three full strength infantry regiments supported by an on table regiment of 76mm Putilov guns. The division is also supported by two regiments of Russian cavalry, and an off table regiment of 122mm howitzers. All of the infantry and cavalry has random morale.

This was an encounter, or 'meeting engagement', between the two forces.

The battlefield looking from the south. The Austrian division attacks from the west (left) edge of the battlefield, the Russian from the right.

There are five objectives marked on the table. The two bridges and the high ground between the two that dominates the two river crossings, the town nearest the camera, and the high ground opposite it.

The Austrian commander advanced on the high ground to the north, and the centre bridge, with one regiment each, while the third was to advance to the town sector, and hold in reserve. His cavalry was sent on a deep flank march, aimed to hit the left flank of the advancing Russian forces (nearest the camera).

The northern bridge would have to wait until the high ground and the centre were secure.

The deep flank march was a high risk strategy, with the odds of arrival being relatively low. The Austrian commander however felt that the risk was justified. Victories are not won with timidity.

The Russian plan was to send one regiment reinforced with the cavalry to capture the northern most bridge, while a second was to attack the centre bridge and the high ground beyond. His third regiment was to capture the high ground to the east of the town.

The Russian cavalry reaches the river line and attempts to cross the bridge.
The Russian infantry regiment on the Russian left sweeps around across the objective of the high ground.
An Austrian regiment has taken the high ground objective, and the wooded area to the west of the bridge. The Russian cavalry quickly dismount and continue a spirited advance against the high ground supported by the advancing infantry.
The Austrian left is supported by the on table regiment of 76.2mm guns which quickly unlimber and ready themselves for the battle.
The Russian Divisional command has positioned itself in the centre of the battlefield.
Pressure mounts on the Austrian left wing. The scale of the advancing Russian infantry can be judged from this photo, as the infantry advances in support of the two cavalry regiments.

The Austrian on-table artillery regiment has been silent until this time, the Forward Observer unable to raise the guns. The individual batteries have been firing occasional shots in support of the infantry.

Finally the Austrian divisional commander releases the off table divisional guns and they begin to fire in support of the infantry, immediately causing casualties on the dismounted cavalry,

The flank marching cavalry was due to arrive on turn four, and so the reserve regiment was ordered forward in turn 4 to support the arrival of the cavalry. It was important to seize the woods to the west of the high ground before the Russians. The Austrian commander wanted to make sure that the Russian infantry was fully engaged before the cavalry arrived.
Pressure mounts on the Austrian left, with casualties growing on the battalion that is trying to hold the woods.
In the centre the Austrians hold the bridge and begin to inflct casualties on the advancing Russians.

At this stage almost all units have come under fire, and so random morale tests have been taken. The Russian regiment on their right is regular, their centre regiment is green, while their left is held by a veteran regiment. The cavalry is also veteran.

All of the Austrian infantry are green, while the cavalry is regular.

Finally on turn eight the Austrian cavalry flank march arrives. The troopers have been dismounted.

As noted in the introduction, the deep flank march of the Austrian cavalry is a high risk strategy, requiring a die roll of 5 or 6 to arrive. It finally arrived on turn 8 with the roll of a 6.

The placement of artillery is marked with Litko artillery markers. The use of the markers gives the table top the appearance of 'lighting up' as the artillery falls.

By this stage all of the participating artillery is in action, and the battlefield resounds to the thunder of the guns. The Austrian commander has concentrated all of his artillery in support of his left. The situation looks tenuous.
Heavy Austrian artillery fire falls on the Russian right. The Russian cavalry have retired after taking heavy casualties. The Austrian commander realises that his left flank is under the greatest threat.The Russian centre regiment has been forced to test morale, but passes.
The Russian on table guns bring their fire down in support of the Russian left, now threatened from both front and rear.
The Russian right wing infantry finally win the fire fight despite the heavy artillery fire brought down on them. Austrian infantry have been eliminated form the wood to the west of the bridge.

Finally casualties have mounted too far and the Russian right wing regiment melts away leaving the Austrian infantry in command of the heights.

However in the last turn of the game the Austrian right wing infantry regiment is forced to take a morale test and fails. In accordance with the Austrian special rule, a die is rolled and two further stands are removed from the Austrian centre regiment. This forces a morale check for the Austrian centre, which it fails. The Austrian left loses a further stand, but passes its morale check.

The Austrian off board artillery has also exhausted its ammunition stocks, and the on board regiment is also running perilously low of shells.

In terms of the Scenario Generation System this left both players with five victory points, and a draw.

However with the Austrians reduced to a single infantry regiment on their left, and the cavalry regiment on their right, it would be hard to see their position as sustainable. The field would be held by the Russian division that night.