The men were keen to be under way, they did not know the situation in full, but they knew that snow provided cover. Cover meant survival. The narrow snowy trail was a mess however.
1-49, the 40th Guards Motorised and a host of AT guns were being pushed, drug, dug and man handled along the trail. The quiet of the morning in Noviki had given rise to curses in 10 dialects from across the plains of Russia. The Germans may not be able to see the Russians but they could hear them. Elements of 3-16 inched thru the trees and snow slowly headed south. Their mission was simple, keep the retreating forces from Goncharova out of the flanks of the Guards.
By 1130 Smirnov’s men had passed thru the now empty town of Goncharova. and ran smack into the remnants of the 352 situated on the rise above the town to the East.
Smirnov grabbed his Grandfathers saddle bag and went with an OB team to the highest building that had some shelter and viewed his men crossing the stream. Several under force platoons with MG support crossed the stream gingerly. Sticking to the steep incline they hid for now from view of the enemy.
Mortar fire and a rare smoke mission aided the movement across the snowy fields. But the wet snow slowed his men down. He was handed a casualty list as he watched. He slowly placed his binoculars down next to his pistol.
His shoulders sagged as he read the report. Looking the length of town he realized that most of the buildings had been set up as makeshift infirmaries. The wounded who were not back in Karskaya were here. Both Battalions had effectively lost combat capability. The German arty had worked his men over all morning.
This attack up the incline in snow would be the last attack of the 451 and 453. Nothing would be left after this. It would not be long even with snow before the Germans found their mark with the dreaded 150mm guns of theirs.
He leaned to one side and slide a bottle out in one hand and pulled his favorite heavy crystal tumbler out. ” Let the show begin” he said as he poured a glass and set his feet upon his the broken wall.
Balirev and his men could not believe their eyes. Thru the snow came the Germans. Quietly. No rush, no shouts. just hard faced men. Eyes set on one objective, that was finishing off the MG team and killing the last of the tanks in the woods.
The Russians ducked for cover. Some would say cowered. Balirev realized his mens spirit was broken. Here was the enemy, surrounded, and out numbered attacking them. The artillery fire had been worse than every one had thought possible. Nothing, no one could withstand that abuse he thought. His money had done him proud, and as he looked at the last of them he realized his force was spent.
Time to die, he stepped forward, waved his men on directing fire and rushing to aid the bogged down tanks caught between trees in drifts of snow. He shot 2 soldiers as they climbed on the back of the T-34 tanks.
3-16’s lead tank took 2 rounds before they could spot the well hidden AT Gun. The second round caused the crew to abandon their vehicle. Thru the trees and snow, Captain Tchik spied the AT gun, “bear right 30 degrees SABOT, fire!” The round was wide and low. The 2nd tank in his team called out fir commands as well. It hit the mark. As did his second round. Attempting to loop thru the trees was painfully slow, bu the only way – he had thought that he could get close enough to overwhelm the 216’s defense.
Yet once again their coverage of the approaches was impeccable. Hie men had too much confidence and not enough experience to be driving in this weather in trees. 30 tanks weaving thru trees was insane. But he had to obey orders.