: Umpire's Briefing
Once the whole Soviet division
turns up the Poles effectively have no chance, so the Soviet player
should not be given reinforcements until it is clear that his attack is
beaten, if it is beaten. The arrival of the second brigade is a useful
way of ending the scenario if it is heading to a stalemate. I would
anticipate the reserve artillery being sent first.
It is important that the players follow their orders and press the
enemy: the mindset of both parties at this time was extremely
offensive, at least from a strategic viewpoint. The Soviet player
should not be allowed sit still on the assumption that the rest of his
division will come to his aid – it might never come. Once the
Polish player sees that he is out-numbered it seems quite reasonable to
expect him to adopt a more defensive posture, if he wants (not that
this is necessarily an advantage).
The players start with the
historical maps of the area, and should be fed the accurate
topographical one only as they arrive to observe in person.
The whole area here is particularly flat, except where it dips into a
river or stream. If you calculate the "slopes" you
will see that even these are hardly steep, mostly being less than 2%. I
made a point of driving through this area when I was in Poland. See the
terrain notes that I wrote
The Wkra River at Borkowo is 50 metres wide in a basically dry valley.
It is slow, shallow and sandy bottomed. Therefore it is easily crossed
everywhere by cavalry, is not a major obstacle to infantry and can even
be forded by artillery if care is taken in choosing the correct spot.
The bridge at Borkowo is wooden and can be easily destroyed.
On the map:
- The thin black lines are roads, with the slightly better
ones (still all dirt) marked as parallel lines.
- The railway line is the thick black line. The stations are
indicated with a box.
main contours lines are yellow and ochre and are 20m apart in height:
sometimes there is an intermediate line shown at the 10m line between
tan). Those contours with short hatchings indicated very steep banks.
- The small "X"s mark high points (with the lowness of the
land "peak" is a bit optimistic).
- The square dots are dwellings. Other than a few in the centre of the biggest towns, they will be
surrounded by barns and vegetable gardens, often fenced/hedged.
- The villages named in red are not on the players' map (to
try to avoid citing places they don't know about).
- Forest are green. Streams are blue. Marshy bits have pale green swamp markings.
Sikorski had been
ordered to attack with all his forces on 14 August, but the
reorganisation of his forces left them both unequipped for the task and
in the wrong positions. Nevertheless he issued the order of the day
cited in the Polish briefing (and a less broadly published one
threatening dire retribution on any officers who did not do their duty)
and ordered those units in suitable position to attack around midday.
The results were not uniformly good, as he states in his book:
waiting for the arrival of the 18th IB, Colonel Rumsza started to
attack at the prescribed time; he directed one Siberian regiment from
Zawady towards Nowe Miasto and the other from Borkowo towards Nasielsk.
The excessive confidence shown by separating the columns, and the delay
of the units which were to co-operate with the Siberian Brigade were
regrettable. The result was not long in coming. The Russians riposted
with an energetic counter-attack, which initially the Siberian Brigade
was able to hold off. Its 1st Regiment threw back the Russian units
which attacked the Borkowo bridgehead, while the 2nd Regiment even
crossed the Wkra at Zawady.
But at 1800 the entire
11th Division concentrically attacked the positions of the 1st Regiment
on the left bank of the Wkra. This regiment suffered heavy losses,
particularly in officers and NCOs; it was not able to continue the
unequal fight and that night evacuated its bridgehead. Its retirement
delivered Borkowo to the Soviet 11th Division which took from us a
battery and numerous prisoners. Zawady fell in its turn. The Siberian
Brigade, one regiment beaten and the other gravely weakened, had to
retire on Wrony–Josefowo.”
According to Sikorski’s book, the Siberian Brigade in
had somewhere in the vicinity of 47 officers, 2,850 bayonets, 190
sabres, 23 MGs, 8 field guns. Because recruitment was taking place at
such a rapid rate these figures may be slightly too high: but if they
reflect the strength after the abortive attacks of the 15th they may be
too low. In any case they will be good enough for our purposes.
The Soviet strengths are even more dubious. Kakurin and Melikov quote
the Soviet 11th Rifle Division as having 5,639 infantry, 200 cavalry,
6, 656 “total” combatants, 12,187
“eaters”, 127 MGs, 17 guns and 2,977 horses on 1 August. Sikorski has a footnote in
his book about these figures: “This work is too optimistic in
matter of ‘effectives of rationaires’. The
divisions on our front never reached such a high ratio of combatants to
rationaires. On the contrary, the proportion of combatants to
rationaires was less satisfactory in the Soviet Army than in the Polish
Army.” Since this acts to diminish the overall Polish
making it clear that there were far less Soviet soldiers than the bare
numbers tend to suggest, I give his note some credence. Oddly,
Tukhachevski's work on the campaign quotes the 11th RD as only having 2,211 rifles and 35
sabres at the end of May, but somehow reaching 5,411 rifles and 207
sabres by 4 July. In any event a large number of men in most of the
Soviet units were dispatched to gather supplies and to guard their
extended supply line.
My decision to give the Soviets only two brigades is essentially
arbitrary – although not uncommon practice at the time.
possibility is that they had the official three brigades but each only
had two regiments, which gives the same number of battalions but
slightly more flexibility for the Soviet player, especially in a
Kriegspiel game. If you favour much higher tactical factors for the
Poles than the Soviets, then the Soviets can be given two of these
smaller brigades to help cancel this. I’m not sure how a unit
over double in size during a long campaign other than by taking in a
whole bunch of recruits so I have plumped for a couple of large but
quite green brigades. Alternatively the Soviets might be represented by
a smaller more experienced set of units, with the recruits perhaps
deemed to be mainly guarding the rear.
It seems, since the decisive attack at Borkowo did not occur until
1800, that the Soviet reinforcements took quite some time to reach the
battlefield. I have assumed that they were expecting an attack on
Nasielsk from further south, as had been ordered by Sikorski, but by
mid-afternoon they would suspect that none was coming. In fact it did
come late in the day from the 18th Infantry Brigade, forcing the
Soviets to redeploy to defend from the south. Fighting went on into the
night, which prevented a follow-up of the beaten Siberian Brigade.
Perhaps also it took some time for the Soviets to contact their Army HQ
to clear a redeployment – communications were a major problem
the Soviet Armies in this area, and divisions often completely lost
contact with higher levels. The Poles seem to have had good
communication between HQs but like most armies of the Pygmy Wars
nothing at lower levels other than riders on a good horse.
Neither side can expect any outside assistance, and the Soviets can't
even really expect timely knowledge of what is happening on the rest of
the front because of their communication difficulties. The Soviet 16th
Rifle Division was in Nowe Miasto, so it and the other Siberian
regiment was kept busy and neither had any chance of coming to the aid
of their fellows. The Poles in Modlin spent the day organising a
division out of various component parts (hence their lateness to attack
Nasielsk as ordered). The Soviets to the south (the 5th RD) seem to
have been heading, slowly, for Modlin.
During this war both sides transported their infantry on locally
requisitioned carts as much as possible, though I have no way of
knowing if the units at Borkowo did so. In a game this might not make
much difference in speed but it would greatly reduce the fatigue on the
men, at the cost of making all transport have to go by road. The carts
would have to cross major water features at road crossings.
The railway line is of no particular value. The Poles had smashed their
lines as they retreated, denying the Soviets effective use in
this area (in any case, I believe the Soviet armoured trains used
another gauge). The Poles’ main armour and air assets were
in the south or guarding Warsaw – Sikorski had some armoured
and trains but not, as far as I know, in this area.