From: Utlima Thule
Turn 14: 18-24 September 1941
Mid-September saw a renewal of the German offensive across the front. Soviet forces at Dnepropetrovsk were encircled and Bryansk-Orel sector saw vicious fighting as the Germans pushed for Tula. In the north, they consolidated their grip on the east bank of the Volkhov breaking the front held by 7 and 30 Armies.
At Leningrad, the Soviet positions started to crumble. The Germans were content to screen 27 Army (NW Front) on the Msta and turned almost all their assault divisions north. The rail bridge at Volkhov fell as 7 Army fell back to try and hold the line of the lower Chagodos. The supply line to Leningrad was already becoming stretched, reliant on the small port of Sviritsa and with the nearest major rail junction at Tikhvin.
The fighting south of the Oka and at Orel was the most intense of the week. Although the Germans managed to destroy the Soviet forces trapped at Bryansk and Yelnya. They also had setbacks. Western Front's 3 Army clung onto Spas-Demensk despite repeated attacks.
(Soviet defensive positions at Spas-Demensk)
Also, the heavily reinforced VVS took the Luftwaffe by surprise. Clearly used to facing little opposition, the Germans made the mistake of sending in unescorted bombers on a sector where Stavka had recently deployed some of the best Soviet fighter squadrons. Some victories raised Soviet morale after the battering the VVS had taken since June.
(Soviet fighter pilot decorated for shooting down 2 German bombers)
However, despite these victories, the Soviets faced a major disaster as the Germans reached Orel and drove back Bryansk Front. In response Western Front abandoned the salient between the Oka and the Bolva falling back to the Oka. This allowed a substantial improvement to the defences at Tula. To its south, Bryansk Front was effectively shattered by the fighting in the last 2 weeks. 10 divisions were now cut off behind the German spearheads and the Front had less than 50% of its notional strength to try and prevent the Germans swinging around to the south of Tula. Its southern flank was defended by a few rifle brigades holding key river bridges and rail junctions.
Around Dnepropetrovsk, the Germans renewed their offensive. However, a powerful counterattack by the rebuilt 9 Army inflicted heavy losses on their 16 Motorised division enabling the Soviets to open the pocket and resupply the units defending the key industrial city.
To the south, the Rumanian 1 Armoured Division had become overextended near Armyansk and was driven back with heavy losses by elements of the Coastal Army. After several days of heavy fighting it had lost 30% of its tanks.
This was the only sector where Stavka felt confident it could stall any further German advances. The gap from Orel to Kharkov was held by little more than a weak screen as SW Front continued to be starved of reinforcements.
Even though Southern Front had been battered in the recent battles it was clinging to the lower Dneipr and preventing the Germans from consolidating their recent gains. The longer these battles raged, the more Stavka was building up a substantial reserve under the Caucasus MD in the Donets region.
Equally each small counterattack bought time to continue the evacuation of the massive industrial capacity of Stalino and surrounding cities.
OOB and commentary
Front line strength actually dropped over the week even though total strength went up. New infantry brigades are all at 50% TOE as I'll use them to cover the rear, maintain fort lines and as the core of the 'reserve' army I'll build up over winter. Most new tank brigades are also at 50% as I think I gain more from the attached tank battalions so those have priority. Some tank brigades are at 100% and will go to identified armies to help the winter offensive.
In terms of losses, the Soviets lost 115,000 men (70,000 as prisoners), 240 tanks and 300 planes. Axis losses were 17,000 men, 90 tanks (reflecting the Orel-Oka battles) and 110 planes.
So far I've lost 1.5m as prisoners and another 100,000+ will be lost on T15. There are around 150,000 men in Leningrad, which is now doomed and I suspect there will be more small pockets till mud stalls the German offensive. This is starting to become worrying but I am basically trading off the 1941 army for the survival of my industrial base.
As is clear from the maps – in order to concentrate on key sectors there are huge gaps in my front. It all feels as if I am the verge of a major collapse.
Given the new 1942 rules, I am not that confident I've yet found a good balance. But will persist with constantly trying to open up pockets so as to slow the German advance.
As in this turn, you can attack in 1941 without the +1 rule but you need to set things up with more care. But roughly 1-1 in apparent CV, combined with the likely levels of fatigue for German units at this stage, seems to be a good basis for winning about 80% of your attacks.
 – Most female Soviet pilots either flew aircraft being transferred or the U2s on partisan resupply or night attacks. Despite post-war myths, they were not welcomed by male pilots in fighter squadrons. The picture is of Lydia Litvyak one of the few decorated fighter aces from an all female squadron that took part in the Moscow battles at the end of 1941 (they mostly used Yak-1s).