Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Poland 1939: Getting to Grips with a Campaign

In my last Poland 1939 post I mentioned that I had picked up Osprey's Poland 1939: The Birth of Blitzkrieg, which I have now read and digested it. The book is rather general in its approach to the campaign, naturally, and does not really go into any depth on the actions in and around Lwow (Lviv) or the actions of 1. Gebirgsdivision, which are the focus of my campaign. I have realized that there are actually multiple discrete facets to the campaign, which I have rendered thus:
  • The campaign as a whole: No element occurs in a vacuum or isolation from the other parts, therefore an understanding of the broader campaign is necessary, it provides a context for the actions which I am focused on. This is true of any campaign, and in this regard the Osprey campaign book has proved valuable.
  • 1. Gebirgsdivision: I need to come to grips with the organisation, disposition, and actions of the formation throughout the Polish campaign since it is the primary "Player Character" (to borrow from Role-playing nomenclature).
  • Supporting German forces: What other German formations operated close to the Mountain Division during their movements? This could define the types of support available to them. Again, using the nomenclature of RPGs, these would constitute this a German "Non-Player Character."
  • Polish Forces in the region of Lwow: Since the narrative is following the movement of the Germans, I am more interested in those units along the way than any Polish units specifically. Again, an NPC of sorts. Who do the Mountain Division "bump" into on the movements towards Lwow?
  • 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade: The exception to the above point. These chaps count as a Player Character and therefore need to be fleshed out in the manner of the German Mountain Division. 
So, as you can see, gentle reader, there are five discrete elements that require researching. The first is well under way, and is in some ways the easiest. I suspect that the real challenge will be in learning about the movements of the Mountain Division, and the Polish forces that they come up against. The 10th Motorised Cavalry are quite well documented, so this should be less problematic. I have found an excellent source online, a website feldgrau.net which hosts vast amounts of information about units and campaigns, but in truth, the real value lies in their forums which abound with nuggets of information. A quick search for Gebirgsjäger and Poland has already resulted in some incredibly useful maps and narrative points. Whilst Osprey books tend to be great for pictures and neat maps, there is something to be said for the dearth of free data out there that rewards a little bit of careful searching. 

The campaign is a solo affair, though the actions are likely to fought by people. On the strategic level the German player is 1. Gebirgsdivision, or more likely a part thereof, as part of Army Group South. Orders are therefore filtered down from Field Marshal Rundstedt. Additional assets are made available through the same chain. On a tactical level, the player is in charge of a platoon of Gebirgsjager, the characters will all be fictional though. It is on the tactical level that the player will be able to exercise the greatest degree of control, though orders will be issued by strategic command.

The Polish player is Army Karpaty under General Fabrycy on a strategic level. Central command in Warsaw (this later moved), will issue orders from high. On a tactical level the Polish player will assume the role of defending Polish formations, most likely to be 2 & 3 Mountain Brigades due to geography, but I can't be certain of this yet. However, as the campaign progresses this is likely to become messier and by the time our campaign reaches the streets of Lwow, armed civilians start appearing. Once the 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade enter the area of operations, the Polish player will assume control of them in addition to other forces. 

Polish Aims

The Polish campaign is a very one sided affair. Poland can't win the broader campaign, so the Polish player needs to focus on other goals, how successful can they be in delaying German movements? Remember, Poland is trying to hold out until France and Britain can start agitating in the West. Can they inflict stunning victories that will be a testament to their genius and resolve? Specifically to our area of operations, can they secure the Romanian bridgehead? And finally, as the campaign ends, can they break out and into neighbouring Hungary, hoping to make it still further abroad and continue the fight against the fascists?

"To arms! Save the fatherland! Remember well our future fate." 1920 recruitment poster. Notice the Polish soldiers square topped Czapka. 
German Aims

The German campaign aim is to conclude the conquest of Poland with as little loss of life and material as possible, and as quickly as possible, since there is the very real threat of a French offensive in the West which that front is ill suited to repulse. After the shame of 1918, the German soldier is keen to prove his mettle in combat once more and restore his country's honour, taking back the lands dished out to others at Versailles.

Propaganda of the new "Drang nacht Osten". In this poster the German is cast as a Teutonic night, the figure in front wears a what appears to be a Polish lancer's Czapka. 
The information above is a brief sketch, and is likely to change as I learn more, but what I am looking to do here is document how I build the wargaming campaign, so hopefully readers will find this useful. I have been inspired in large part by Sidney Roundwood's excellent World War I Jetty Wood linked game campaign, do go and have a read. Right, and now I have some more reading to do...