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Author Topic: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 08 02 21)  (Read 3287 times)

Offline monk2002uk

  • Mad Scientist
  • Posts: 564
Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 20 01 21)
« Reply #15 on: January 26, 2021, 08:49:23 AM »
Lovely work, TacticalPainter.

Here are a few thoughts as you come to consider deployment of the figures into the field. The general literature on German assault- or storm troops is heavily skewed by the post-war focus on the highly specialised units, such as Sturmbataillon Rohr. This reflects, in part, the role that Rohr played in promoting his work and his unit. It also reflects the propaganda that was linked to such units in the lead-up to WW2.

The concept of Sturm (assault) was well known throughout the German army from before the war. In the earliest months of the war, there is mention of Sturmkolonnen (assault columns) for example to describe ad hoc formations of infantry companies created for a very specific attack on an enemy position. Thus, the adjective Sturm- was used in a range of contexts. The first specialist meaning was linked to the creation of Sturmabteilung Gaede (Assault Detachment, so not a standard company as such), which was created by a formal order from the German War Ministry on May 4 1915. Rohr took over from Gaede after the initial poor performance of the Sturmabteilung in its first attack. Rohr was able to leverage his royal patronage to increase the size and scope to a Sturmbataillon. Each company within the battalion were designated as a Pioniere=Sturm=Kompagnie (Pioneer Assault Company).

With the early successes of Sturmabteilung Rohr, the role of the specialist unit expanded to include a much wider training role. Meanwhile, some divisions, corps, and army commands had taken separate initiatives to set up small units that were specifically designated to support key attacks. These units were at the Trupp (squad), Zug (platoon), and occasionally at the Kompagnie (company) levels. In 1915, the few such units often had Sturm- appended to them.

Rohr's unit were heavily involved in developing the concept of Stoßtaktiken (shock tactics). This indicated the realisation that 'shock' and 'assault' were not the same concept. Shock tactics, which were divided into support and close combat tactics, were designed to maximise the effectiveness of an assault. Overwhelming fire power from multiple coordinated weapons systems was key. Shock tactics were gradually disseminated throughout the German army in a train-the-trainer style. A division might send a squad of men to be trained by Sturmbataillon Rohr and these men would be designated as a Stoss=Trupp (literally a 'shock squad' or 'shock section' in direct translation but often translated as 'assault squad') back in the division, typically as a division asset and not at the regiment level. As more men were trained up then the number of Stoss=Trupp would increase to form a Sturmkompagnie. The plural of Trupp is Truppen, hence the emergence of Stosstruppen to refer to multiple designated squads.

In English, the term 'Stosstruppen' has come to be linked with the concept of stormtroopers. It refers to men who are trained specialists in assault tactics, typically in the context of WW2. In WW1, it is better to think of the term as meaning more than one squad of men trained in Stosstaktiken, where the emphasis is on the unit itself rather than the men within it. In German, Sturmtruppen can refer to a collection of men that were involved in assaults but it can also refer to a group of Assault Squads. Note that German WW1 war diaries, regimental histories, etc often refer to British, Canadian, Australian and other enemy soldiers as Sturmtruppen.

As the war progressed, the concept of Sturmtrupp (ie a specialist squad) was picked up at the regiment, battalion, and company-levels to varying degrees. The role/s of such squads were variable too, reflecting the lack of common understanding in shock tactics. In theory, several Stoss=Truppen ('shock' squads) could be formed into a Stoss=Zug ('shock' platoon) but this term is exceedingly rare in my experience. Sturm- is used for the designated companies, even within Sturmbataillon Rohr and its specialist equivalents. The term Sturmblock (literally 'assault block' but better translated as 'assault group') by highly specialist Sturmbataillonen to refer to a combat group of around 60 men, along with light- and heavy machine guns, Minenwerfer, and Granatenwerfer.

Further to the problems linked to word 'stormtroopers' in English, the WW1 literature often imbues 'stormtroopers' with special powers. This includes the power of 'infiltration', which is often reflected in special rules for 'stormtroopers'. 'Infiltration' is the ability to slip between defenses and get into the rear areas. On a table-top, defences are often table-edge to table-edge. 'Infiltration' therefore requires the stormtrooper figures to have attack bonuses of some sort to more easily overcome the defenders.

'Infiltration' is not an accurate concept. The highly specialised assault troops from the likes of Sturmbataillon Rohr were not involved in this way during the likes of Operation Michael in 1918, to which the term 'infiltration' is most closely linked. The super-specialists were parcelled out across the two major armies and were involved in very specific attacks on difficult defensive positions. The assault troops in Operation Michael that 'infiltrated' were the frontline infantry units, not the super-specialists. When 'infiltration' did occur, it was mainly because of the fog and the widely separated British defensive redoubts. Even super-specialists could not 'infiltrate' between well organised defenses that were organised in depth and with mutually supporting weapons systems.

Within the wargame context, a Stoss=Trupp will be a squad within the battalion that has likely received some training in Stosstaktiken, often partial training. The squad will be more experienced in participating in assaults because that was their role. This was similar to the concept of 'raiders', where a 'raid' involved a planned small-scale (less than company size) assault. A huge and fundamental difference from the specialist assault units was the lack of fully integrated support weapons systems, as represented in the Sturmblock concept. This difference, coupled with the variable training in those tactics that were under the direct control of the squad, means that we should be very cautious about assigning special powers to 'stormtroopers' IMHO.

Robert
« Last Edit: January 26, 2021, 08:53:54 AM by monk2002uk »

Offline TacticalPainter

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    • The Tactical Painter
Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 20 01 21)
« Reply #16 on: January 30, 2021, 11:07:26 PM »
Thanks, that’s an informative read. I’m also weary of assigning any troops of an apparent ‘elite’ status with superpowers. I’m more interested in the tactical use of these squads and how that differed from regular infantry. For the same reason I don’t like rules that give Japanese unit superpowers when they make a banzai charge (when in reality it was no more than a suicidal charge with minimal chance of success but maximum chance of 100% casualties).

I’m inclined to view these units as specialists rather than some sort of high powered elite. They were trained and equipped for specific assault tasks and I’m interested in modelling their performance against more regular infantry and the various roles each were asked to perform. It’s the same way I’m interested in the evolution of the British platoon and the devolution of tasks to specific sections of ‘specialists’.
The Tactical Painter

Offline monk2002uk

  • Mad Scientist
  • Posts: 564
Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 20 01 21)
« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2021, 07:44:08 AM »
I agree with your point about 'superpowers'. The concept of 'specialists' within regular infantry units is interesting. With respect to the German terms Sturm= (assault) and Stoß= (shock), I have been working on a very interesting translation. It comes from the post-war regimental history of German 174th Infantry Regiment (IR174). My current focus is on the battles in the Race to the Sea during late September and early October 1914. IR174 encountered French forces at Chaulnes and Lihons, south of the Somme river. The line stabilised between these two towns. On 30 October 1914, IR174 launched an attack on French-occupied Lihons. As with all regimental histories, the content was compiled after the war when the concept of Stoß= had taken on a new meaning, at least as defined by the super-specialist training units. Nevertheless, here is what was written in the account for the attack (the translation is mine as are any mistakes therein):

"October 30 was going to be a difficult day for the regiment. [42nd Infantry Division] had decided to break through the enemy position at this point in the line. The infantry was going to attack in 7 assault columns (Sturmkolonnen) after the intense preparatory bombardment by the artillery and Minenwerfer."

The history then provides details of the assault columns, each of which comprised 1-3 infantry companies drawn from IR70 on the right wing of the attack (2 assault columns) and IR174. Each column had two Pioneer squads attached and had another company in reserve to follow through Nachstoß. The field artillery had been reinforced with a heavy (15cm) howitzer brigade and with a Mörserbataillon that included a 10cm gun battery.

"The columns stood to according to the timetable, with the Stoßkompagnien tightly-packed together [I have left the German original term in place so you can get a feel for the meaning]. The Sturmtruppen were well-equipped with ladders, axes, and hatchets; the men left their haversacks in the trenches.

Stoßtrupp 3 was able to take the brickworks north of the road [on the right wing of the attack]; further advance in this sector failed with heavy losses due to the determined enemy resistance. Lihons village would undoubtedly been captured if, unfortunately, the order had not been issued mistakenly to withdraw the Sturmtruppen that had occupied French forward trenches and part of Lihons.

In the early hours of 1 November, the remnants of the Stoßtruppen that were still in contact with the enemy were withdrawn back to the starting positions."

Bear in mind that the account is describing German infantry in 1914, which is a clear reminder that we are discussing concepts rather than the way that Stoßtruppen are normally portrayed in the English literature.

Robert

Offline FlyXwire

  • Scientist
  • Posts: 353
Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 20 01 21)
« Reply #18 on: February 03, 2021, 12:48:43 AM »
There was an interesting discussion in a post-WWII wargame exercise conducted in the USA with German Generals Balck and Von Mellenthin, where Gen Balck was asked to comment on the WWI Stosstruppen infiltration tactics (later attributed by the British and Americans as the von Hutier tactics) - he was unaware of them ever being used during his combat experience.

Document page 52-53 (PDF Pg 58-59), and with special note the yellow highlighted passage in the document):
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B666O7-HemObS1BWdE85dTdubnM/view

Offline monk2002uk

  • Mad Scientist
  • Posts: 564
Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 20 01 21)
« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2021, 09:50:56 AM »
Thank you for the reference. Hermann Balck's father wrote several books on tactics in German, which were published before WW1. For anyone who is interested, you can download an English translation of one of the books here:

Link

It clearly shows how the concepts of fire and movement, shock, etc were being formulated before WW1. One can imagine that Hermann Balck would have sat and talked with his father about these aspects many times.

Balck's comments in the interview confirm the points I was making about 'infiltration' tactics. If the question had been couched differently, such as 'Were non-specialist German assault troops expected to bypass points of resistance whenever possible in an effort to disrupt the enemy and break-through?' then the answer would have been 'Yes'. I have seen examples of German Operation Orders from WW1 that include this type of reminder. Balck is noting, however, that assault tactics included a strong emphasis on tackling strongpoints by various means, not just somehow mysteriously bypassing them.

Robert

Offline FlyXwire

  • Scientist
  • Posts: 353
Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 20 01 21)
« Reply #20 on: February 03, 2021, 06:53:39 PM »
Robert,

I thought you might enjoy that link.

Dave

Offline monk2002uk

  • Mad Scientist
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Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 20 01 21)
« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2021, 08:56:18 PM »
I thought you might enjoy that link.
For sure! Thanks again, Dave. Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the original interview...

Robert

Offline TacticalPainter

  • Scientist
  • Posts: 371
    • The Tactical Painter
Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 20 01 21)
« Reply #22 on: February 08, 2021, 12:33:22 AM »
A slight distraction has diverted my attention to another project (as these things are wont to do!). More additions and some others finished off and based. As with the previous all figures are from Great War Miniatures.

Here's a British MG crew:



I needed a few extra figures to round out the platoon including another corporal and two men as scouts with the platoon HQ. These were joined by a few surplus figures that will no doubt come in handy in the future, including an additional Lewis gunner.



I've been trying to find ways to theme the bases of the leaders to correspond to their leader status in Through the Mud & Blood but to do it in a way that left them open for use with other rules. As they are on slightly larger bases it's allowed for additional terrain elements and so I've used things like sandbags to mark the leader's command level. In the case of some of the leaders below I've also tried using a piece of duckboard and having the leader level correspond to the number of rungs. In this case a British level 4 leader and a level 1 corporal (represented by the single stanchion for the barbed wire).



The first of the Germans are now finished.



And once again with their leaders I've used duckboard where I can to show their command level.



Offline Driscoles

  • The Dude
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  • Galactic Brain
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Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 08 02 21)
« Reply #23 on: February 09, 2021, 10:07:52 AM »
Love the Germans !
, ,

Offline Metternich

  • Scatterbrained Genius
  • Posts: 2017
Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 08 02 21)
« Reply #24 on: February 10, 2021, 12:33:01 AM »
Superb painting of both the Germans and the British.

Offline Nickyc

  • Schoolboy
  • Posts: 7
Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 08 02 21)
« Reply #25 on: March 26, 2021, 10:34:39 AM »
Beautiful work with a real Great war feel to them, any updates mate :)

Offline James Morris

  • Mastermind
  • Posts: 1409
    • mogsymakes
Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 08 02 21)
« Reply #26 on: March 26, 2021, 05:52:37 PM »
Superbly painted and based.  The leader solutions are very elegant.

Offline Ash

  • Mastermind
  • Posts: 1460
Re: First foray into the Western Front in 28mm (updated 08 02 21)
« Reply #27 on: March 27, 2021, 09:45:22 AM »
These are superb.
I've always been interested in this period, but most of the minis I've seen have been early war.
Really like the look of these.

 

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