Mark had one more turn of ground shock, and gained some decent ground in a few sectors. However, my forces held up exponentially better this time around than they had during any of the early ground shock events in the last game. The Axis divisions did manage a river crossing east of Rostov, which was the worst of the breakthroughs. But overall, my lines are generally solid, with no major gaps at any point. The big news this turn was the arrival of the 60th and 63rd Armies. The 60th went to Yelets, while the 63rd went south to the Don Front. More reinforcements are scheduled to arrive next turn, including a Guards army.
The lines have returned to the starting points, as German Panzers were able to push back the 2nd Shock. I’ve been forced to reassign the 54th Army to the Kalinin Front, weakening the force tasked with opening up the Leningrad corridor. I’ll have to replace the 54th with some kind of relief for the 2nd Shock, as Mark has the opportunity here to counterattack and maybe gain some new ground. I can’t lose Leningrad before, at the earliest, turn 30.
The 2nd SS Division that had rushed through the front line, only to be cut off before any German support could arrive, has been badly beaten up. The 3rd and 4th Shock Armies have been the difference here, with their large corps-sized line units holding strong against waves of German attacks. The full force of the German offensive in this sector could not be brought to bear upon my main line before Mark’s ground shock advantage expired. I’m chalking that up to the delaying screen units I left behind, coupled with the inability of his German divisions to achieve a major breakthrough at any point. If I hadn’t ordered a general withdrawal when I did, this would not be a stable situation in any respect.
Orel - Yelets
Almost every Russian division here is exhausted. But spirits are very high, as the Germans have not been able to break the line. Every time Mark gets an opening, I shift around my local reserves to close it up, many times cutting off a division or two of his in the process. The 60th Army is marching hard to relieve the 1st Shock Army, which I’ll give a 1-turn rest before redeploying. I’m not sure yet where the 1st will be needed, but since it’s now a veteran unit with improved proficiency, it’s extremely valuable. This sector might quiet down now that the Axis shock event is over, as Mark might want to use a turn or two to improve the rail network and get his forces better supply.
The line is still about 30 miles west of the Don River, which is a great thing this far into the German push. Usually, most of my forces are already across the Don and digging in on the other side. Now, with reinforcements slated to arrive next turn, I can form a very good defensive position IN FRONT of Voronezh, rather than have to defend on the city limits. The fact that Mark’s ground shock event didn’t get him to at least the outskirts of Voronezh and Yelets is a huge boost for my chances of keeping the fight outside of the two key Central Fronts cities.
Don Front - Rostov
In the back of my mind, I was worried that Mark would try a river crossing in a non-bridge/shallow hex. He’s done that, and it worked. An unidentified Panzer division breached into the rear area, well ahead of the rest of the assault force. For now, I’ve been able to isolate the unit and seal up the gap in the line. The 63rd Army has arrived in the sector. It’s split on both sides of the Don’s southern branch, and will move north to the front line next turn when it can disembark from the trains. Now that Mark is across the river in two places, this sector will likely not last too much longer. But it’s already lasted way longer than any previous game of this scenario.
I’d rather have the Primorskaya units in one piece than hold Sevastopol for another turn or two. The city is officially open, as all Russian defenders are evacuated to the Caucasus.
Oddly and fortunately for me, Mark did not order the Italian Navy to blockade the port of Tobruk and cut off my escape route. I was able successfully evacuate the 1st and 2nd South African Divisions of the XIII Corps to Alexandria, while the 1st Armoured remains behind with some supporting brigades. I wasn’t able to get the 1st Arm to the docks in time to evac this turn.