Tuesday, 9 February 2016

A Winter-ish War: An untold story

One thing that confused experts and pundits at the time was why the leadership of SPUR did not press home the military advantage that they had after they had broken through the 'Talenheim Line'. It appeared that they had the Opelandic Armed Force on the run, and could easily have continued their invasion and eventually occupied the entire country. The truth has now emerged ... and it goes some way to explaining why Opeland was not subjected to such ignominy.

In the far north of Opeland is the mining town of Samopet. Its iron ore is of the highest quality, and is exported all over the world. Possession of the town and its mines was therefore essential to the continued strength of Opeland's economy, and it was a prize that was desired by certain members of SPUR's Supreme Soviet ... especially the Head of Border and Internal Security, Deputy Marshal Berrikoff. Whilst the main fighting of the Winter-ish War took place far to the south, a SPUR invasion force attempted to capture Samopet.

The Terrain

The Defenders
The defenders (commanded by Colonel Tor Eriksson) comprised:
  • 3 x Reserve Infantry Units
  • 1 x Reserve Anti-tank Gun Unit
  • 1 x Reserve Light Field Gun Unit
The defenders were all recruited from the area around Samopet, and were well used to working in the very cold temperatures experienced by the region.

The Attackers
The attackers (commanded by DivCom Kustoff) comprised:
  • 6 x Border Rifle Units
  • 1 x Border Tank Unit
  • 1 x Border Anti-tank Gun Unit
The attackers were all drawn from Border and Internal Security detachments, and whilst they were heavily armed, they were trained to defend the nation's borders and to ensure internal security was rigorously maintained ... and not to fight conventional battles.

Turn 1
The SPUR troops advanced through the heavily forested terrain that separated Samopet from the border with SPUR. They had been informed that there were very few Opelandic troops in the area, and those that were there were poor-quality reservists. As a result they had not sent out any reconnaissance parties in the belief that any ambushes would be easily pushed aside.

Turn 2
Oblivious to the possibility of there being any Opelandic troops in the forests, the SPUR troops were forced to form themselves into a single column in order to move through the close terrain.

Turn 3
The unopposed SPUR advance continued ...

Turn 4
... until the front half of the column was well and truly in the Opelandic 'killing ground'.

Turn 5
Suddenly the Opelandic Reserve Anti-tank Gun and Reserve Light Field Artillery Units opened fire ...

... with the result that the SPUR Border Tank Unit was hit and reduced to 50% effectiveness ...

... and casualties were inflicted on the leading SPUR Border Rifle Unit.

The SPUR Border Tank Unit returned fire ... but it missed its intended target.

The SPUR Border Tank Unit was then attacked from the rear by one of the Opelandic Reserve Infantry Units ...

... which wiped it out!

Elsewhere another of the Opelandic Reserve Infantry Units attacked a nearby SPUR Border Rifle Unit, ...

... inflicting casualties on it and causing it to retreat.

The Opelandic Reserve Infantry Unit was immediately counter-attacked by another of the SPUR Border Rifle Units ...

... that came of worse in the fighting and that was also forced to fall back.

The Opelandic Reserve Infantry Unit that had wiped out the SPUR Border Tank Unit was also counter-attacked by a SPUR Border Rifle Unit ...

... but the SPUR Border Rifle Unit's attack failed, it suffered casualties, and then fell back ... and was in turn counter-attacked by the third Opelandic Reserve Infantry Unit.

The casualties suffered by the SPUR Border Rifle Unit were such that it felt compelled to flee back towards the border with SPUR.

In a very short spell of intense fighting, the SPUR force had been mauled and rendered unable to continue its offensive. DivCom Kustoff attempted to rally his troops ... but failed.

Turn 6
As the SPUR troops retreated, the rearmost ones were attacked by Opelandic Reserve Infantry Units ...

... which caused them to divert from their obvious lines of retreat in order to escape from their attackers.

Turn 7
As the SPUR retreat continued, so did the harassing attacks by the Opelandic Reserve Infantry Units ...

... which turned the retreat into a full-scale rout.

Samopet was secure and would remain in Opelandic hands ... and SPUR's military leaders had learnt a valuable lesson about fighting in heavily forested terrain.

When news of the debacle reached the ears of Deputy Marshal Berrikoff, he ordered that DivCom Kustoff be arrested, tried on charges of treason against the State ... and shot. In addition the Deputy Marshal posted all the Border and Internal Security troops that had returned from Opeland to a labour camp in the Far East for 're-education'. By doing this he hoped to avoid incurring the displeasure of the Secretary of the Supreme Soviet ... but he was wrong.

Two days after the failed attack on Samopet (and whilst the two countries were in the midst of the armistice negotiations) a meeting of the State Council of the Supreme Soviet was held, at the end of which the Secretary of the Supreme Soviet asked Deputy Marshal Berrikoff for the reasons behind the execution of DivCom Kustoff. Whilst the rest of the meeting sat in silence, Deputy Marshal Berrikoff tried to explain that the now-dead Kustoff had taken unauthorised action when he had mounted the attack on Samopet.

The Secretary of the Supreme Soviet smiled and nodded as he listened to what the Deputy Marshal had to say ... and then asked one of his bodyguards to give the Deputy Marshal a pistol. The Secretary then told the Deputy Marshal that he had a choice; either to die by his own hand – in which case his family would be left untouched and even given a pension – or to be taken outside and shot by a firing squad, knowing that his family faced a similar fate within a few days. The Deputy Marshal chose the former course of action ... and several days later the SPUR official newspaper announced the death of Deputy Marshal Berrikoff 'after a short battle with a terminal illness'.

For the purposes of this battle the Opelanders were allowed to travel unimpeded by the rules governing movement through forested areas. The SPUR Border troops were classed as Militia, and had lower Strength Values and Combat Power as a result.


  1. Excellent tale.
    A final sting in the tail for both the overall invasion and the Deputy Marshall.

  2. Nobby,

    Thanks! I thought that people who have been following the mini-campaign would find this battle report interesting ... and I wanted to see if the rules would work in heavily forested terrain.

    I also enjoyed writing this part of the story as it seemed to round matters off quite nicely.

    All the best,


  3. A satisfactory ending to the campaign. However, as I've said before. I hope this is not the last we've heard from Opeland.

  4. I do love happy endings, (sorry ex cold warrior here) ;-)

  5. David Bradley,

    This final battle of the mini-campaign did rather tie things up nicely ... and I am sure that this is not the last that you will hear about Opeland.

    All the best,


  6. Don M,

    It's nice when a bad guy gets his comeuppance, and in this case it fitted in very nicely with the story of this mini-campaign.

    All the best,


  7. Thoroughly enjoying reports from your little war.

  8. The meeting of the Soviet reminds me of a story I read some time ago about a similar meeting held after the end of the Winter War. Stalin was raging at the incompetence of his generals when the CinC of the invasion armies interrupted him, stood up, and loudly objected to what he was saying. It was Stalin's own fault, he went on, by his stupid and unwarranted purge of his officer corps!

    The others at the dinner held their breath, certain the objector (Timoshenko, IIRC, but it's been awhile since I read this) was about to be given the pistol-or-else choice himself. Stalin, however, possibly thunderstruck by never having had this happen to him before, said nothing. And as we know, Timoshenko (assuming it was he who spoke) went on to serve honorably thereafter.

    This episode reveals either that Stalin was just a bully, backing down when challenged, or respectful of those who opposed him when he was in the wrong. It's interesting to note that the USSR did not occupy all of Finland, as it probably could have in 1940 and most assuredly could have in 1944, but did not; and that scores of RedArmy officers began to be considered "rehabilitated" later that year.

    Best regards,


  9. Whiskers,

    Thanks very much for your kind comment. I am pleased that you enjoyed my battle reports.

    All the best,


  10. Chris,

    I have heard a similar stories about Stalin, and they do indicate that he could and would back down if the need arose ... but also had a long memory and woebetide anyone who stood up to him too often and/or too publicly.

    I remember the story about the white horse that Stalin was going to ride at the Victory Parade in Moscow. He tried to ride it before the parade, and found that it was almost wild. He therefore decided to watch the parade ... and made Zuhkov ride the horse in his place. Unfortunately Zuhkov had been a cavalryman, and rode the horse without too much trouble. Stalin never forgave him ... and he was packed off into obscurity until Stalin died,

    All the best,


  11. I feel sorry for what happened to Zuhkov. He did indeed re-emerge after Stalin died, and was later instrumental in putting down an attempted coup against Khruschev. Unfortunately for Zuhkov, the good Premier decided he did not want someone so competent, and therefore potentially politically powerful, to remain near him, and sent the Marshal back into obscurity. Zuhkov spent his remaining years at a dacha near the Black Sea. Considering his service to his country, he deserved far, far better treatment.

    So he's been gone these many years, but not forgotten. In 7th grade, my son was given the assignment of writing an essay about his hero. Most of his classmates chose Michael Jackson or some such nonsense, but probably because my son was adopted from Russia, he wrote about Zuhkov! (His teacher had to look up who the guy even was.) I would bet the farm that this was, and is likely ever to be, the ONLY time Zuhkov appeared as the hero in an American essay!

    Best regards,


  12. Chris,

    Zhukov was - in my opinion - one of the greatest generals of the Second World War. Not a particularly nice man, but then successful generals often aren't. His post-Stalin career reflects the fact that he was still a good strategic and tactical thinker but not a political animal, and this resulted in his premature retirement at the age of 62 when he was perceived as being too powerful and popular by the leadership of the Communist Party. That said he seemed to be revered in retirement, and his memoirs - of which I have a translation - were a best seller.

    It is good to hear that your son recognised Zhukov's eminence and thinks of him as a hero, and that he decided to write about him. I suspect that the teacher was not unique in not knowing anything about Zhukov; I suspect that most on my former colleagues would have been similarly baffled.

    All the best,