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GT:OS - second campaign mission

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I give myself a fright, in my second Ostfront campaign battle!




Having gained ground on my first mission, in my effort to sieze bridgeheads over the river Mzha at Pavlovka, I'm keen to use my gains as a springboard to get over the river and give the Soviet 104th Motor Rifle Brigade another bloody nose. As a newly-arrived kampfgruppe commander in Das Reich, I'm also keen to prove myself, though anxious not to foul it up, either. And it looks like I am about to be given ample opportunity to make a mess. For some reason, the mission 'briefing' credits us with capturing a bridgehead  - perhaps something is lost in translation here, as the best we have done in my sector is to reach the river on our side, not actually get across it. But my real problem now is that Ivan is reported to be throwing a tank brigade against us, from the north-east. I don't know what sort of tanks they have, but this really doesn't sound good. Nevertheless, if at all possible, I want to throw some troops over the river, before going over to the defensive to meet this counterattack.




I'm hoping that my own heavier armour will have arrived on the scene by now. But my hopes are dashed when I find that they are still not deployable. All I have is the same re-inforced Grenadier (infantry) company to the west of Pavlovka, and the Panzer Pioneers who fought my first battle, now depleted by the loss of one of their SPWs.


A look at the map shows there is a small pocket of Ivans to the south, but I'm more interested in pressing on than wiping them out. Nevertheless, in moving my Panzer Pioneere towards the river, I keep one platoon in reserve, to the east of the little pocket, where it can contain them...or perhaps destroy them, if the opportunity presents itself.


On my left flank, I move my footsloggers west, heading for Pavlovka. In GT:OS, there are limits as to which squares (even within move distance) you can move a platoon onto, and in this case, my rear platoon, near the river bank, is left trailing behind the lead platoons. I can see that these fellows are going to be quite isolated until they can close up with the rest of the company, but I'm in a hurry, and accept the risk. Which I am about to be given cause to regret.


These moves trigger two battles. To the east, a Soviet counterattack is coming in at the point where my Grenadiers and Pioneers have come together. This one doesn't worry me unduly, as it involves infantry only. But on the left, as luck would have it, more bad boys from the 104th Motor Rifles have decided to go for my isolated Grenadier platoon, which has reached a wood to the west of Pavlovka, close to the river. I took a chance, and now I'm going to have to pay the price.




I have visions of the Ostfront equivalent of Custer's Last Stand, a platoon wiped out that I will surely miss later. I put such thoughts aside, and choose to fight this battle first. At least this time it's daylight, and I'll be able to see what I'm doing. Time for the Das Reich to show the Bolshevists what we're made of!


...to be continued!

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Watch your arcs!

I waste no time in orienting my Grenadier platoon to meet the expected attack. We deploy inside the wood, in a flattened triangle with its base at right-angles to the direction of the expected incursion, and platoon HQ roughly in the middle. I keep all four sections/squads back from the enemy side of the wood. Long lines of view and fire work in both directions! My plan is to hit the enemy as they enter the wood, from close range, using the depth section for local counterattacks as the opportunity arises. If we need to re-orient, the woods will provide some cover.

If there’s a way of deploying scouts as OPs closer to the northern, enemy edge of the wood, I don’t know what it is, but the leafless trees are fairly sparse and we have some visibility towards the far side of the river, from whence the attack will likely come.

The good news is that I have some armoured fire support – a half-tracked SdKfz 251/9 kanonenwagen, mounting the same short 7.5cm gun as early Panzer IVs and StuG IIIs (and the last model of the Panzer III). I position this in the middle, well covered by infantry, and set his priority arc of fire.






We haven’t been here long enough to dig in, but I give everybody the order to stay concealed and defend.




This is my virtual persona, the grenadier platoon commander, and he looks a bit worried, for reasons which are perfectly understandable. We’re on our own out here, the rest of the reinforced company having pressed on to the east, towards Pavlovka. There’s a lot hanging on the poor fellow’s shoulders.




We wait, then wait some more, for something to happen. Nothing does. After another few minutes, deciding that hiding in the middle of the wood like an ostrich is, perhaps, not such a wonderful idea, I push my troops a little further north, in case we’re missing something important, and to give me fields of fire down towards the river obstacle, just to the north. But still, nothing happens.






Right, that’s it! I’ll be dammed if we’re going to sit here all day, waiting upon Ivan’s pleasure. Our kampfgruppe’s mission is to seize crossings over the Mzha. And one such crossing - a ford. by the look of the map - is but a short distance directly north of us. I might as well make a dash for it! If the enemy attack comes in, well, then we’ll meet it from a bridgehead on the far bank. Let’s do it!

From the map, I plan my move. First, I order two sections and the kanonenwagen up to the northern edge of the woods, to cover the crossing.






Then I order two other sections to leapfrog them and cross. I am a bit wary of the crossing itself, but the leading section is able to walk over the evidently-frozen river at the site of the ford.






The other section reaches the bank further east, and without needing any prompting, decides to stick to the ford, turns left to reach it, then follows the leading section over. Good work, meine herren! I spread out the two sections in a rough, flattened arc, in a straggling patch of trees on the far bank, facing north-east. Then I bring a third section across, and slot it into the gap on their right, nearest the river where they are mostly in dead ground. Platoon HQ, the fourth section and the kanonenwagen I place on the southern bank, to cover the troops who’ve crossed the river. Right – now get down! Take cover! And watch your arcs!




No sooner have I begun setting the aforementioned arcs, than small-arms fire breaks out to our front. Contact! Enemy front! Give me an effing minute, will you, I just got here, I tell the unseen Reds, in my head. But I know I'm lucky - a minute or two earlier, and they'd have caught us on the hop. Well, come and have a go, if you think you're hard enough! We're the Das Reich, and now, we're ready for you!




...to be continued!

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The Russians are coming...again...




There's a bang amongst the mounting rattle small arms fire, and a dark fountain of earth springs up in the open ground to the north-east of my little bridgehead, across which the Soviets are advancing. I realise my kanonenwagen has joined the fray. She's firing from the position down by the river to the right, where I'd moved her to provide a good field of fire into my killing ground.




The enemy is not the human wave I feared, more like a fighting patrol, maybe weak platoon strength. From what I can see of them, the Reds are working their way forward in short rushes, pausing to fire their bolt-action Mosin-Nagant rifles and PPSh submachine guns.




The combination of disciplined fire from my Grenadiers and HE rounds lobbed over by the kanonenwagen cuts them down as they try to cross the open snowfields. Like the poor fellow below, who has slumped to his knees as the flying dirt from the HE round which got him falls back to earth all around. Next second, he groaned and slumped forwaed onto the snow-laden soil of Mother Russia...or rather, considering where we really are today, Mother Ukraine.




I try to set up a mortar shoot, but fumble the drill half way through and the rounds are never fired. Fortunately, they’re not needed. The attack withers away.

Taking advantage of a lull in the combat, I adjust the positions of my three sections over the bridgehead, pushing them slightly further out, towards the edges of the wood. And I bring platoon HQ over the river to join them.






Another group of enemy infantry is reported emerging from the treeline further to the east, but this effort is just as feeble at the first attack, more infantry without and supporting fire. It’s not for want of courage that it fails. The Reds make a very determined attempt to get at us, across the open ground. I don’t know whether they are near-fanatical patriots, have been well topped-up with Vodka, or have Commissars behind, threatening to shoot anyone who goes back. Maybe all three. But from what I can see, they won’t stop until we drop them in their tracks.




Some of them nearly reach my foremost positions, before crumpling into the snow.




As usual, I’m relishing being able to play from a ground level view, with all labels and markers turned off, switching to the full-screen map view to check contact or other reports, give orders and in general, to follow the ebb and flow of battle. Not for me the God’s Eye view, or markers turned on. It’s less convenient and more confusing, certainly but it feels a whole lot more real. If I could, I would pass a law, effective world-wide and imediately, outlawing the incorporation of a God’s Eye view in PC wargames. Why? Well, to compel developers to ensure that their games are fully playable without it. A well marked-up map should be more than enough. PC wargames should simulate war, not a wargame. But I digress…

We have now defeated two waves of attackers – quite small waves, admittedly, but defeated they’ve surely been. And not only has the counterattack been beaten off, we’ve secured a bridgehead over the Mzha in the process. Not where, when or how we originally intended – the plan was to seize the bridges on the far, eastern side of Pavlovka, or at a pinch, the ones in the village itself. But the opportunity presented itself, and we took it. How the kampfgruppe adapts its plans to this development, will be something I’ll have to think about in the next turn. I do know that it would be good to get a bridge or two as well, rather than relying on a ford which I still haven’t established is passable to any kind of vehicles.

By this time, the clock is counting down towards the end of the turn. A last ‘crazy Ivan’ is shot down as he makes a hopeless rush towards our bridgehead, his demise observed through binoculars from the position of the kanonenwagen. Then, all is still once more.




The troops in the bridgehead begin to relax. There seem to be two casualties here, regrettable but modest enough for the outcome. By contrast, the field in front of us is liberally sprinkled with the enemy's dead.




The results screen credits us with a minor victory, which I think is fair enough. We haven’t taken any key points, but have inflicted significantly more casualties than we suffered; albeit that's clearly a reflection of our greater strength and firepower. And we’re over the river. Considering that I started the battle fully expecting to be wiped out, I’m more than content with all this.




As in fact I am, with the mission itself. I wouldn’t like it in real life, if every operation resulted in a desperate fight to the death, killing or wounding many of my men. Nor would real armies last very long, at such rates of attrition – as Phyrrus of Epirus supposedly said after one of the kind of victories named after him, ’Another victory like that will be the end of us’. Or words to that effect. So I don’t much like that kind of fight in a simulated campaign either, where losses are cumulative and resupply is nether automated not guaranteed. The interest and the challenge of planning and conducting a simulated military operation, as part of an interwoven series of such operations, is what I’m liking most about GT:OS. The battles which result are just a part of that experience; the icing on the cake, almost. I really appreciate the time and the space that GT:OS is providing me, in my efforts to apply something akin to realistic military drills and solutions to simulated military problems. The antithesis of the click fest, if you will. The uncertainty and the anticipation are as immersive as the flying tracers and the booming shells.

I’m sure there will be more desperate battles at some point, when it’s the enemy, not us, who has ‘Got there firstest, with the mostest’, when we are swarmed by T-34s, or perhaps human waves with fixed bayonets. But that’ll be for another day. Now, I need to get over to the east, where my kampfgruppe's main force has also been engaged. Is this another desperate attack by penny-packets of infantry from the hard-pressed 104th Motor Rifles? Or something altogether more dangerous? Whatever it is, I need to deal with it quickly, then get across those bridges, before the advance guard of the 195th Tank Brigade, reported coming down from the north-east, threatens to turn the tide of battle against me. Suddenly, that staff job I left behind in Berlin just a few days ago is but a distant and fading memory!

Before I dash off to rejoin my Panzer Pioniere at Pavlovka, I want to share some links to the best GT:OS videos I’ve so far found. They are by Guetapens, and (with an EMB graphical mod, I think) nicely illustrate how the battles look (and sound), when played as I play them, from more realistic viewpoints - and without those intrusive labels. The clips also depict some neat touches, like the ability to lock the camera to an individual vehicle or soldier. This is surely Graviteam Tactics: Operation Star at its very best! And that is very, very good indeed!


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    • By 33LIMA
      Das Reich finally secures the Pavlovka bridgeheads!

      Well, I finally reached the end of my first campaign in Graviteam Tactics: Operation Star, having in the process just about secured and held my campaign objectives, though not earning a victory (in a typically arcane GT:OS reckoning!).
      The Pavlovka campaign had reached its final (eighth) operational-level turn, so although I might have several battles to fight at tactical level, I knew my time was running out. So to the east of Pavlovka, I pushed a combined force of StuG III assault guns and panzer pioneers northwards towards the River Mzha, intending to reinforce my battered units on the far bank and establish a bridgehead so strong that the Reds would be unable to kick me out of it, try as they might. That was the plan, anyway.

      It was quite a tense business, as my SPWs, advancing on the left, changed from line to column formation to ford the river in the snowy darkness. There was a  certain amount of bunching up as they reached the near bank...

      ...but the half-tracks quickly shook themselves out and made the crossing without opposition, passing the frozen bodies of casualties from the earlier fighting.

      To their right, my two StuGs had moved up to a fire position on the southern bank, accompanied by an infantry platoon...

      ,,,but meeting no opposition, they then made their own crossing and swung north-east, to establish a blocking position against the Red tank brigade still expected to hit us from that direction.

      At this point, the GT:OS curtain came down. I don't recall there being any contact as I write this, so I'm not clear what caused the handful of wounded reported on each side (or why they aren't counted in the casualty total). I'd achieved what I'd set out to, and gained some ground at the enemy's expense, so I'm not especially bothered that GT:OS only awarded me a draw. Equally I'm not bothered about the lack of combat. For me, 75% of the fun is laying and carrying out your plans, with the excitement and uncertainty as to whether, how and when the other side may, or may not, make the effort to mess things up for you.

      I didn't know it at the time, but the next battle was going to be my last one of the campaign. And it was going to be an altogether more violent and bloody affair.
      ...to be continued!
    • By 33LIMA
      The heavy stuff arrives at last!
       Pavlovka campaign, mission report #4

      To relieve the pressure on my infantry and pioneers around Pavlovka, I have moved a platoon of StuG III self-propelled 7.5cm guns to the south of the village, and a heavy tank platoon to its west. The StuGs aren't yet close enough to relieve my battered eastern bridgehead. But the Tigers are well placed to enter the battle to the west.
      At the operational phase, I order two pioneer platoons to destroy the encircled enemy platoon to the south-east of Pavlovka, as a first step towards a concerted push with armour and infantry northwards, where what's left of my eastern bridgehead is still clinging grimly on. The Reds have light tanks up there and I'm not going to tackle them until the StuGs arrive. In the meantime, my people up there will have to hang on a little longer.
      Over to the west, I order a strong, concentric assault on Pavlovka, with three grenadier platoons and the platoon of Tigers. On the left, a grenadier platoon will cover the open flank by attacking eastwards along the banks of the Mzha. In the centre, another platoon, with my tanks in intimate support, will attack east into Pavlovka itself. On my right, my third grenadier platoon will attack northwards, into the centre of the village. In the Initial Orders screen below, the blue arrows are inherited from my operational-level orders, and don't reflect the actual axes of attack I have just described.

      My grenadiers begin to advance across the dark, snow-covered terrain. Yes, it's another night operation!

      Just behind them, my heavy tank platoon rattles and roars forward. In early 1943, it was not uncommon for heavy tank companies to have a mix of Tigers and Panzer IIIs, though the latter were normally the 'close support' version (Ausf. N) with a short 7.5cm gun; here, we have instead long-barrelled 5cm weapons.

      The tanks begin to catch up with the grenadiers as the hovels of Pavlovka loom through the darkness ahead.

      The tension mounts as we reach Pavlovka. I have ordered the tanks to advance only as far as the outskirts, as I don't want them running into hidden enemy infantry or A/T weapons in the dark. The grenadiers will press on, at least until contact is made.

      It's not long in coming, and it's my troops in the centre - the grenadiers with the tank support - who hit it first. There are enemy troops over there, near a cluster of isolated buildings, north of Pavlovka, and a fire-fight soon develops.

      The enemy there are soon wiped out but now, the grenadier platoon coming up from the south bumps enemy infantry between them and the village. I'm still watching the battle from the positions of my troops in the centre of my attacking force, and the contact report on the radio is soon followed by tracer and illumination rounds over in that direction, marking the scene of the latest action. My tank crews, who have just unbuttoned, close up again, ready once more for combat.

      I waste no time in ordering my halted tank platoon to get moving again, and assault deeper into Pavlovka. This will help their accompanying troops to clear the village and threaten the rear of the new defenders. I try to call down some artillery into Pavlovka, ahead of my troops, but I don't have a dedicated forward observer, and none of my platoon command elements can raise either gunners or mortarmen on the radio net.


      My tanks press on into the village, but meet no further opposition there...

      ...so I order them to swing around slightly to the south, to get clear of the buildings, where they can have a less obstructed run at the Soviets who are resisting the advance of my right-flank grenadier platoon.

      The Panzer IIIs take the lead, with the Tigers backing them up.

      At this point, GT:OS announces that the Soviet 'key point' in Pavlovka has fallen! The enemy opposityion there certainly seems to have melted away. You can see from the message log that at one point, they asked for a cease fire; naturally, Das Reich is disinclined to parley with Bolshevists, so this went unanswered.
      While checking the map, I notice with some alarm that the battle timer has already gone into 'countdown' mode, indicating that the curtain will soon come down - in just over four minutes, at the point the picture below was captured. Why so soon, I have no idea.

      After taking Pavlovka, I had planned to exploit to the north and re-establish my western bridgehead over the Mzha. Not much time for that now! My lead panzers have by this time linked up with my right flank grenadier platoon just south of the village, lit up briedly by (presumably enemy) illuminating rounds.

      The idea was to swing both tank and infantry platoons north and attack along the same axis, clearing enemies reported between Pavloka and the Mzha. But if I have any hope now of gaining the far bank in this sector, I need to try something different, and quickly.
      The ilumination dies away again, not before I have noticed enemy trenches up ahead of my leading tanks.

      This comes as a bit of a surprise, so I let both tanks and troops continue, so as to make sure that these quite extensive field defences are definitely cleared of their former occupants.

      They haven't been! Some Soviets are still around out there. Tigers, Panzer IIIs and grenadiers crack off bursts of MG fire into the darkness.


      This finally seems to do the trick, but a difficulty of a different kind is about to take a hand. One of my Panzer IIIs runs into the defences, and just when I think he's got glear, his tail slips deeply into the last trench. He struggles to get out, but seems only to succeed in miring himself more deeply.

      One remedy in these situations is to intervene yourself, and give the unit an indididual 'Reverse!' order. This I quickly try, but to no effect. Instead, after a short struggle, two of the tank's crew get out and set about the right-hand track noisily with large hammers. Evidently, the panzer has shed a track.

      At this point, rather than risk further such misadventures, I order my tank platoon to break off and attack north-west. Up in that direction, my left-hand platoon has met no opposition and indeed, has established a small toe-hold over the Mzha. Nearby on the map, I can see there is a bridge or ford, which the panzers could help sieze.
      The bogged Panzer III's crew appear unworried  at this turn of events. In fact, they turn on their lights as they continue to work.

      By this time, the rest of the tank platoon is on its way to the north-west, leaving the now self-illuminated panzer behind them.

      This leaves my right-hand grenadier platoon to assault north from Pavlovka to the river. Which they do, despite having taken some losses in their earlier battle south of the village.

      There are more entrenched Reds up here, but my grenadiers have a Marder SP gun for close fire support...

      ...and soon, the leading troops can see the dark band of the river, looming up ahead of them.

      Meanwhile, my two Tigers and the other Panzer III are now leading the dash towards the north-west of Pavlovka.

      But before they get there, my time runs out! I am awarded a draw...

      ...which is one of those nonsense results you sometimes get in GT:OS, as in SABOW. True, I have sustained some losses, despite having a comfortable superiority over the enemy. However, we have done considerably more damage to the Soviets, in a night attack against dug-in opposition. I had deliberately concentrated my forces, and I really don't expect to get 'marked down' for successfully massing strength against relative weakness. So I take this to be a victory, albeit not a glorious one and at a higher cost than I'd have liked.
      Back at the operational level, the map shows we have developed a strong position on our left and cleared the Soviet salient around Pavlovka, in the centre. Leaving a single Soviet platoon (depleted in an early battle) masked well behind our centre, we are now well poised to fight my planned second battle, on my right. Two panzer pioneer platoons will attack and destroy the enemy platoon in a defensive position south-east of Pavlovka. Then, they will link up with the StuG III platoon that is now standing by on their left flank, and attack northwards, to relieve my battered bridgehead east of Pavlovka.

      For a while. the battle felt like it had slipped from my hands. Now, with my heavier armour finally in action, I feel once again in control. Time to wipe out the Reds on the right, then Das Reich will be well and truly back on the offensive in this sector!
      I wish I had discovered the tactical marvel that is Graviteam Tactics: Operation Star years ago, but it took learning the wargame ropes in Steel Armour: Blaze of War, and an incredible sale on Bundlestars, to get me started. Better late than never! In over fifteen years of PC gaming, GT:OS I have found to be one of the very best, if not the best, I have ever played, certainly second to none. And I am looking forward both to completing my first campaign and to kicking off the many others available, from Ukraine to Iran and from Angola to Afghanistan. Most highly recommended!
      This is likely to be the last mission report I file before the Festive Season, so I'll take this opportunity to wish the staff, members and readers at CombatAce a very happy Christmas!
    • By 33LIMA
      Das Reich faces defeat as the Soviets counterattack!
       Pavlovka campaign, mission report #3

      Despite having only limited forces at my disposal - a mixture of unmotorised and armoured (engineer) infantry - I was, I felt, doing quite well my in battle to clear Pavlovka and secure bridgeheads over the River Mzha. I had destroved some Soviet defenders, left some battered remnants surrounded in my wake, and secured a small bridgehead over a ford to the west of the town, with my 'foot' infantry. To the east, I decided that my panzer pioneers would by-pass the remaining Reds holding Pavlovka on the centre, and secure another crossing to the east. All this went well - until the Soviets decided to do something about it. In fact, they decided to wipe out both my bridgeheads, starting with the one on my left.
      Here, my force consisted of two unmotorised infantry platoons, one with a self-propelled AT gun for direct fire support - a Marder II, pictured at top. We still hadn't had time to dig in, but I'd deployed the platoons in depth facing roughly north-west, astride the expected axis of the enemy attack. There was no certaintly the Soviets would comply with our expectations, but I wanted to keep my platoons in decent visual cover in a compact, mutually-supporting grouping. No point in feeding Oxo cubes to the lion, as a British officer said of Arnhem. If the Reds went another way, fair enough, but if they came to get us, well, we'd be ready for them.

      Here's the commander of my left-hand platoon, anxiously scanning towards the western edge of the woods. The river is about 50 metres his left.

      And here are some of his troops. As it happens, they wouldn't have long to wait, because it was in this platoon's sector, that the Reds would first show their hand.

      As usual, I'm playing with labels turned off and avoding a 'God's eye' view of the battlefield. This makes combat look and feel much more realistic - and a lot more suspenseful. GT:OS likes to keep you waiting, rather than pitching you right into the fight - time acceleration is available for the suspense-haters or the time-deficient.
      The party begins when my left-hand platoon - the one with the Marder - spots the enemy, moving left to right across its front, towards the river.

      I have already enabled firing at will in Initial Orders and it's not long before the foremost sections have opened up. They are ably supported by the Marder, which uses its AA machinegun as well as the Pak.

      Some of the Reds are shooting back at us, but it's obvious that others are crossing the river up ahead, turning our left flank. This isn't good, but I have set up with a section back to the left rear, so as to provide us a degree of all-round defence, textbook style. I'm still under attack from the west and I'm not going to split my force to go chasing after the enemy. I have a second platoon to our north-east; but they are covering the right flank of our position and I'm not about to compromise it by redeploying them. I've made my plan and for now, I'll stick to it, rather than dancing to the Soviets' tune.
      I take the luxurtyof pushing the camera out to the west and south to the river -not too far, just far enough to get a better view of what my forward troops can already see. It's quickly obvious that some enemies have got over the river, but plenty of them have fallen in the attempt.

      My Marder has been shelling the enemy during their crossing, but now switches targets - engaging the enemy in the woods to the west. He fires several rounds, the loader steadily feeding the long 7.5cm rounds into the breech each time. But some of his shells splinter the trees just to his front, causing casualties to my own troops.

      I track the camera about a hundred meters to the west, and get a closer view of the enemy advance. There aren't too many of them, but they are coming on, somewhat hesitantly, using fire and manoeuvre.

      My Marder cuts into them with an HE round which bursts just in front of an enemy officer, who falls to his knees before keeling over.

      However, there are some casualties on my side, too, including those which I believe are down to wood splinters thrown out by the Marder's fire.

      At this point, the shooting dies away. The platoon to the north remains unengaged, but any thought of redeploying to sweep up such Soviet forces as have penetrated to our rear ends when GT:OS decides the battle is over, for now. Despite my boys having inflicted much heavier casualties, we are adjudged to have been defeated. Evidently this is because because the Reds have made substantial gains in territory.

      I'm not too worried about this. I'm more concerned about preserving both my own forces and the bridgehead, in both of which goals I have succeeded. I don't think the enemy behind us are in any great strength. I am happy to leave the job of mopping them up to other parts of the Division which I know from the briefing are coming up from the west and south - including some heavy tanks. We're still stretched fairly thinly up here, and the critical question is whether we can hold on until the heavy stuff arrives.
      ...to be continued!

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