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Old 09-23-2019, 02:17 PM
lordroel lordroel is offline
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Default The Second Battle of Britain - a Soviet Sealion (preview)

The Spanish failed in 1588, the French failed in 1803 and the Germans failed in 1940, but now in 1987 the Soviets have succeeded where others have failed, the second Battle for Britain has begun, can the British hold against a Soviet Sealion from the air.

The Second Battle of Britain - a Soviet Sealion



Prelude

1 – The Battle of Mundford

Taking place on August 28th, 1987, the Battle of Mundford was the first real battle fought on British soil since Culloden more than two hundred and forty years before. During the ongoing war which was less than a week old, and including those which had taken place the day before when the Soviet landings in the UK had occurred, there had been many other engagements with airborne assaults, skirmishes & surprise ambushes. This was nothing like those. Mundford was entirely different.

Significant numbers of British and Soviet troops clashed at fixed point starting early that morning and continuing until the early afternoon. Each had external fire support and the promise of reinforcement to include what they already brought to the battle. The fight at this little village in the western, inland half of Norfolk occurred as the invading Soviets moved southwards away from their airheads which they had taken with paratroopers and then transported airmobile units into. The British moved to block them here, using the village as a barricade. Mundford became the scene of the battle which transpired because it was located at a crossroads where two major roads running across East Anglia met. The fight could easily have taken place elsewhere yet Mundford was the unfortunate location for this serious engagement.

The Battle of Mundford would be bloody as well as strategically significant.

British troops reached Mundford first, getting there just before dawn. Overnight, a battalion of regular infantry had deployed from their Oakington base down in Cambridgeshire. This was the first battalion of the Worcestershire & Sherwood Foresters Regiment (1 WSFR). They were short a company which had been sent to Cyprus a few months ago though had received a large number of reservists when at Oakington during preparations to deploy to the Continent and join the fight in West Germany. Delays due to enemy action had affected that planned move and then there had came the Soviet landings yesterday. The battalion linked up with some engineers from nearby Waterbeach on the way and then met a dozen or so Home Service Force (HSF) volunteers who’d established a blocking position already at Mundford. Those part-timers only had old rifles as their weaponry – yet one of them was a retired engineer trained in safe munitions destruction who’d instead wired up quite the improvised device to blow a nearby bridge on command – and wouldn’t have stood a chance in holding here without the arrival of the 1 WSFR. Other HSF men had, like RAF Regiment & Royal Auxiliary Air Force personnel too, been massacred when going up against Soviet paratroopers already. Now, more than eight hundred well-armed British Army soldiers turned up. The 1 WSFR brought with them armoured vehicles and heavy weapons such as anti-tank missile launchers, mortars, rockets & big machine guns. There was air support on-call for them with the assurance that a battery of artillery was to reach Mundford by the late afternoon. The men started digging themselves fighting positions once here while their commander put his scouts and recon units out. His orders were to hold until relieved: Mundford wasn’t to be lost to the enemy.

There had been hostile interference from both UK but also NATO armed forces elements with regards to the Soviets getting their men into Norfolk. They had several airheads now though which included four airbases, an airport, two civilian airstrips and a coastal heliport. Transport aircraft had been flying in men, equipment and stores. The airborne division tasked for the Norfolk mission was a light armoured unit. Therefore, getting their vehicles in had been important. Some helicopters had arrived too. The divisional commander instructed that this morning two of his three combat-manoeuvre regiments start moving forward regardless of the disorganised state they and everyone else was in. There was an advance made in the east and then another in the west. Mundford was identified as somewhere to be taken but also a likely British blocking point. Strong opposition wasn’t supposed to be encountered – not today anyway – but the commanding general wasn’t about to take the chance on that. Beyond Mundford lay his ultimate divisional objectives, many more airbases & military facilities to be captured, and he wanted them taken as soon as possible. The 237th Guards Airborne Regiment, men who’d fought on the Weser River on the war’s first morning against the West Germans, before then engaging British airbase guards here in Norfolk yesterday, was tasked to go to Mundford. Two battalion-sized task forces were assembled and given the order to get going. They had armoured vehicles carrying some paratroopers though others were to move in captured civilian transport as well. Air support was provided for the 237th Guards too: aircraft and helicopters using already seized British facilities.

A pair of Mil-24V attack helicopters arrived over Mundford first. NATO called this helicopter the ‘Hind’; the Soviets considered them ‘flying tanks’. They raced low towards Mundford and opened fire on spotted British forces. Each Hind had several heavy guns mounted as well as deployable rockets and missiles. They were well-armoured themselves and flown by experienced crews. Blowpipe missiles were fired up against them. These did as terrible as expected. No hits were achieved by those shoulder-mounted weapons nor from the mass of small arms fire either. The helicopters eventually flew off, going back to the captured RAF West Raynham to rearm & refuel. They’d reported in on what they had seen as well as attacked and would return when the main ground attack went in. Behind them, they left many dead and wounded on the ground. A couple of FV432 armoured personnel carriers had been hit as well as two of the Ferret scout cars. Troops dug-in suffered only a few casualties but they had occurred. There were also civilians killed and hurt. Mundford had seen most of its residents leave yet a few hadn’t. They paid for that mistake gravely.

Columns of armoured vehicles rolled in towards Mundford from the north and the northwest. These were lightweight tracked vehicles in Soviet Airborne Troops service. The BMD-1 armoured assault vehicles, BTR-D armoured personnel carriers and 2S9 self-propelled mortars were all constructed of aluminium alloy though with steel armour around key areas. Crew and passenger conditions were cramped and dangerous should the vehicles be attacked. Morale was good among the paratroopers here and they went into battle expecting victory. No one had stopped them before and there was no belief that anyone could today either. The British saw them coming. There were 1 WSFR recon units out but a helicopter was assigned from Eastern Command (the higher headquarters for home defence of this region of Britain) and this nimble little Gazelle AH1 danced around the sky. It dropped down low when needed – avoiding those Hinds – and then came back up too. A paratrooper armed with a man-portable missile riding atop one of the BTR-Ds coming down the A1065 road fired on the Gazelle and missed it. No such good luck for the Army Air Corps crewmen aboard was had the second time around when from the other column, the one following the A134, another missile was lofted and this blew them out of the sky. The tail rotor was blown off in addition to major damage done elsewhere. Out of control, the helicopter fell to the ground and then blew up on impact. A sighting report had been called in just before that loss though.

Close to Mundford on the A1065 – the road ran up to the town of Swaffham; civilians from there had fled through Mundford and told of an entry by armed invaders – there was a bridge over the River Wissey. That waterway was nothing much and neither was the road-bridge but it represented a possible barrier. When the first BMD started making its way over the river below, an explosion rocked that bridge. The charge planted by that HSF engineer had been ‘improved’ by professionals. No longer was it just an incendiary device going off but now a full-scale demolition of the bridge. In West Germany, men with the 237th Guards had spent their initial time after landing there making sure that NATO plans to blow bridges over the Weser (a major water barrier) couldn’t be destroyed as intended to block the tanks of the Soviet Army advancing on the Low Countries. Here in the British countryside, they hadn’t expected such a thing to be done and especially not an attack against them like this. That BMD with eight paratroopers aboard was utterly destroyed and the remains of it fell into the Wissey below. The column behind came to a halt. Men started exiting them and deploying into fighting positions. They came under fire. British troops used machine guns on them as well as mortars too. As to the vehicles, several started moving off road to the sides of backing up once the paratroopers had jumped out. MILAN missiles started firing. The 1 WSFR was trained to do this on the battlefield of West Germany: they fought their first fight here in Norfolk instead. Several hits were achieved. The MILANs made short work of the lightweight vehicles. The ambush was going well. Yet, these weren’t ‘green’ opponents for the British. The Soviets recovered fast. They fired back across the river with the paratroopers using their own heavy weapons in addition to cannon fire from the armoured vehicles. The southern riverbank was blasted soon by artillery too. There were towed guns trailing behind a few of the BTR-Ds and a pair of them was quick in action. High-explosive shells from the D-30 howitzers exploded on contact with the trees and the ground. In addition, those 2S9 mortar carriers opened fire first with air-burst rounds to rain shrapnel down before other shells exploded in the sky too unleashing a different type of weapon. Chemical weapons had been employed on the Continent against British troops and also used against the mainland UK too: Heathrow Airport being the highest-profile target of them. Now nerve gas was deployed near Mundford.

Troops from both sides were in NBC suits and armoured vehicles had overpressure systems. Regardless, there were casualties caused by use of the chemical weapons here. The Soviets put into play GB: oft-known as Sarin. This nerve gas was quite the deadly weapon. It could cause fatalities by either being inhaled or entering the body’s other orifices, even being absorbed through the skin. The use of conventional explosives and bullets first meant that some of the fighting men had their suits torn while others lay injured. There were other soldiers who didn’t have their protective gear sealed properly. Soviet paratroopers backed away from being near to the banks of the Wissey once the gas was in the air. Their British opponents weren’t given that early warning and took the enemy action as a withdrawal. Then the effects of the gas took hold. Scenes of hell unfolded among those the Sarin got to. The majority of the Britons were safe from the gas yet around them they watched as it took its evil toll among those unlucky ones. Among all of this, seemingly to add to the hell, though in reality doing what needed to be done to win this fight, the Soviets fired more conventional shells too. They only had a few gas-filled shells for their mortars but plenty of high-explosives. More of the howitzers fired. This caused more casualties first from direct effects of the explosions and then the gas attacked now exposed British soldiers. If they’d been in West Germany, the men from one of the company groups of the 1 WSFR (the battalion had formed mixed-arms task groups) would have faced the same sort of attack there… yet who would have ever thought it would occur here?


Though the gas was going to be the deciding factor in making sure that the British were broken in trying to stop the Soviet column coming down the A1065 road, the advance there was stalled. That column had run into trouble and was halted. However, the second column, following the A134 and moving towards Mundford from the northwest, wasn’t brought to a stop. The regimental colonel with the 237th Guards had his paratroopers there cross a stretch of the Wissey downstream and some distance away from Mundford at a road-bridge without incident. He also had his men secure far smaller secondary crossings elsewhere throughout a stretch of the countryside just in case. The armoured vehicles moving on Mundford and what he believed were British regulars there – he relied on the Hind pilot reports, not the divisional intelligence staff’s dangerous optimism – ploughed onwards with him following behind the attack column in a command vehicle. He had his maps & radios and was in contact with the major in charge up ahead. Several villages were passed through as the road wound its way towards Mundford. Plenty of those could have provided excellent ambush positions. The British didn’t have the troops though: so many were doomed by their participation in the near-finished fight over on the Continent.

The distance closed before Mundford was to be reached. Part of the column was ordered to break away to the right, off the main road. Half a dozen vehicles followed a country lane as the 237th Guards still sought to make a several-pronged attack rather than all being bunched up. Contact was made with the British soon afterwards. Between the village of Northwold and the hamlet of Cranwich, shots were exchanged. The 1 WSFR had a recon platoon with their Scimitars. These tracked armoured vehicles were similar to the BMDs that the Soviets had though had a smaller main gun and no troop capacity. The British knew how to make good use of them though where their 30mm rapid-fire guns opened up on several approached enemy vehicles and there were man-portable MILAN detachments brought into play again. The ambush didn’t go as planned. The Soviets didn’t back off from the fight and instead rushed forward while spreading out to return fire. Soviet advantage in numbers on the ground was added to by what they had in the air. 1 WSFR was promised air support like the 237th Guards had been but only for the latter did that show up. Coming out of RAF Sculthorpe, held by the Soviet Airborne, were a trio of attack-fighters. Sukhoi-25s (Frogfoots to NATO) raced in across the morning sky, opening fire with guns, rockets and missiles like the Hinds had done earlier. They were preforming the shturmovik role as done by Ilyushin-2s in the last world war. The first pass of the trio – a fourth had been unable to get off the ground at Sculthorpe – did a lot of damage and then they came back again. Along with a BMD killed in a friendly fire incident, all four Scimitars were eventually hit by the Frogfoots. In return, the British managed to hit one with a Blowpipe and that aircraft flew away trailing smoke yet the damage had been done. 1 WSFR riflemen and the MILAN teams they protected had lost their armoured support. Soviet paratroopers moved against them but others re-mounted their vehicles and moved onwards. The outlying defences of Mundford facing northwest were lost.

The Soviet regimental commander had been intending to bring his returning Hinds into that fight but when it was won as quick as it was, he re-tasked them to go back to Mundford again. They swooped around the main British positions and came in from the south using the forest there for cover. A stand-off attack was made with anti-armour missiles fired from distance before rockets were used again. This came right at the wrong moment for the British, right when the 1 WSFR’s commander was moving about his forces internally to cover the A134 road approaches as he took some men from those facing directly north. Serious casualties were taken. He echoed what many of his junior officers and fighting men had done in uselessly shouting demands for the promised air cover.

Where was the RAF!?

Now the assault on Mundford began properly and the real battle commenced.

The larger and smaller columns of Soviet armour re-converged back on the main road when that breakaway detachment made a navigation error: this was truly unknown ground to be going through and the maps were poor. Rather than split them up once again, and delay things, there was a continuation forward as one though everyone spread out. The BMDs were almost in a straight line moving on Mundford. From behind, the 2S9s lofted mortar rounds forward – using high-explosive at the moment; gas would be used later if needed – while the towed D-30s were getting set up. British fire came towards the Soviets and this was returned. There were two more Scimitars (a further two were on the Wissey) as well as the machine gun armed FV432s and Ferrets. The British had no tanks here though. There were plenty of infantry weapons with more MILANs, 81mm mortars and machine guns which were used to fire on the Russians as they came forward. Multiple engagements occurred as the Soviets refused to bunch up to be easier taken on. They had the fired from their artillery and mortars as well as what the BMDs brought into play with their 73mm cannons. Moreover, their own riflemen had man-portable weapons which they used too.

Under the weight of numbers and firepower, the British fell back. They moved closer to Mundford as initial firing positions were abandoned to fallback ones. Many men were killed or wounded during the tactical withdrawals. There were Soviet paratroopers falling down too yet the British were taking more losses. Among the gunfire, there were explosions which took more lives as well. Armoured vehicles on each side were hit but there were also blasts along the British fighting positions and then into Mundford itself. These remained of the high-explosive nature until the 237th Guards’ commander had enough of the delay in getting there and ordered Sarin used once more alongside the conventional rounds as well. He hoped to maybe get the enemy’s battalion command post or failing that hit British reinforcements being moved internally. Neither aim was met. Instead, casualties being evacuated were engulfed by the gas and so too were the men of an arriving column of Royal Artillery gunners bringing with them Javelin man-portable air defence missiles. They’d arrived late and died horribly before they saw any action.

The command post for the 1 WSFR was a collection of several specially converted FV432s and Sultan tracked vehicles. The overpressure systems were on to protect those inside but they weren’t located where the gas was being used. Stretching south from Mundford down into Suffolk was the Thetford Forest. It provided good cover from observation. The trees didn’t affect radio-waves though. The battalion net was under attack. The Soviets were unleashing their electronic warfare units with radio jamming being used against the 1 WSFR. Only one of the three company groups was able to be contacted. There was still communication with higher headquarters though at any time that could be cut off too. The battalion commander was informed that air support was now incoming. There was a flight of Tornado tactical bombers inbound. His RAF liaison officer stood ready to direct them to put their bombs onto the enemy in what was sure to be a significant attack. However, it was only C Company on the Wissey – a third of which had already been pulled away from there – which could be contacted. A & E Companies (the latter being formed of reservists because the regular B Company was overseas) were those who needed that air support. There was no accurate information on where the enemy was, especially those elements which needed to be knocked out of 1 WSFR was to avoid defeat. All that could be done was to have the Tornados which came from RAF Cottesmore over in Rutland (part of a training unit) drop their bombs to the west of Mundford in the last reported locations of the Soviets. The hope was that they would hit something. It was the only thing to do short of telling them to not bother to make an attack.

The 237th Guards took losses from the Tornados. They dropped unguided bombs when making a low-level high-speed pass and stuck the heavy guns aiding the attack against the British. Those D-30s shouldn’t have stayed in their initial positions for as long as they had yet the Soviets had yet to move them because they faced no counter-battery fire in addition to having seen the loss of many BTR-Ds used as transport them in the face of MILAN attacks. Half of the Soviets guns were knocked out with gun crews taking major casualties as well. Several missiles shot up towards the Tornados and there was an air defence version of the BTR-D present. This vehicle mounted an autocannon with twin barrels for the 23mm guns. A huge amount of fire power was put into the sky to go after the RAF jets, aircraft which were nowhere near as armoured as the Soviet Frogfoots. Two of four Tornados were hit with one of those taking light damage but the other coming off badly. It flew away from the battlefield though would crash before it could make it back to Cottesmore or any other friendly airbase.

The commander of those paratroopers fighting the British, the colonel in his command track, had come pretty close to getting killed himself by the RAF bomb run. Their bombs rocked his vehicle. There was also someone seemingly banging a hammer several times on the left-hand side. But that wasn’t a hammer, was it? Nope, it was shrapnel and bomb debris. He was too damn close to the fighting! His immediate thinking was that the British had targeted him as well as his guns. The knowledge that there were serious communications issues, caused by his comrades elsewhere, affecting his opponent wasn’t something that he had. If that had been the case, he would have still had ordered what he did. That was to instruct his men at the front to continue pushing onwards and keep close contact with the British on the ground. That would negate any air power of theirs. It wouldn’t stop his own though. The Hinds were coming back for a third time. They only had shells and rockets this time – the stocks of missiles brought into the UK so far weren’t that great – but it was enough to do the job.

With those flying tanks and what was left of the heavy guns plus mobile fire support, the Soviets made their final push on Mundford.

They took the village and overcame the 1 WSFR in doing it.

One big major attack, coming in from a wide frontage, won the day for the 237th Guards. A hasty, weak British counterattack at the last minute couldn’t stop them. Fighting positions were overrun and trenches entered. There were several buildings which the defenders had tried to fortify but these were blasted to bits rather than being physically taken by paratroopers moving into them. As the main resistance started to collapse, many British soldiers made a run for it. This was no time for heroics, they reasoned, not when being beaten as they were. Plenty of them suffered from the lingering effects of gas though some did make it into the forest. The BMDs which moved into Mundford didn’t follow them into the trees but instead secured the crossroads. They were ready to go southwards when ordered though before then turned their attention towards the now surrounded British troops still on the Wissey. There would be some fighting there before an improvised white flag was waved. A British Army captain came forward to surrender the men under his command. He had about thirty unwounded and about fifty wounded men.

Elsewhere, on the western edges of Mundford and in the village, others sought to make themselves prisoners. Weapons were put down and arms were raised. Soviet Airborne Troops were often noted for their professionalism and discipline yet there were exceptions to this. After a hard-fought fight such as Mundford had been where paratroopers lost their friends, anger was taken out on a defeated enemy. Several prisoners were shot. Sergeants and officers regained control quick enough and stopped the murders before the numbers got serious though didn’t move to halt other instances of ill-discipline where British soldiers were robbed of possessions and also beaten about a bit. The men were letting off some steam, the excuse was made, and it was allowed as long as there was no serious disorder.

Those remaining prisoners were moved out of Mundford itself. The place had been doused with that gas. Traces of the chemicals remained on the ground and elsewhere if no longer in the air. The sights of many of the bodies after the nerve gas had killed them was unsettling to the victorious paratroopers. These men had seen war before yet this was different. Watches, belts and contents of pockets from those corpses weren’t raided. When he arrived in the village, the Soviet regimental colonel made sure that there was a chemical decontamination unit on the way but his main focus was making sure that his men were ready to fight again. The British could counterattack on the ground or send aircraft in here. He wanted prisoners transported out. The GRU team of military intelligence specialists who arrived following him were told to find the British battalion HQ. They quickly reported back that – from harsh prisoner interrogations – that they had been told that it had never been in Mundford itself. The colonel looked towards the forests. So… he’d have to send men in there, would he?

The British were already gone. When the battalion’s fighting elements were lost, the HQ element and the supporting units inside the Thetford Forest departed their position. It wasn’t cowardice, it wasn’t running away. They had to leave less they be lost too. ‘Hold until relieved’ hadn’t meant a sacrifice such as that. If it had been done, there would have men not killed in the certain defeat who too would have fallen into enemy captivity and some of them would be very valuable prisoners for the Soviets. Of course, the shame of what they did would still remain with those who managed to escape with their lives from the Battle of Mundford when so many others hadn’t. That was a given.

Short of an hour later, after the battle was over, the RAF returned to the lost Mundford.

Tornados arrived again, once more making a daring dash in low and fast. They dropped several bombs over the Soviets there, big ones, and flew away unmolested by Soviet air defences. There was hope that they had done significant damage to the 237th Guards. This wasn’t just done out of spite by the British after losing but because of where the Soviets now were. They had Mundford in their hands. That regiment which had won the battle, joined by other divisional elements of those invaders who had successfully got into Britain, were in a position to move southwards from there. The deployment of the 1 WSFR to that village, unsupported because it was taking time to get more troops to East Anglia, was meant to stop this but had failed so therefore, the RAF made this attack and would be making more.

Soviet paratroopers had won the Battle of Mundford. They’d opened up the way ahead successfully. It had cost them but a win was a win, especially when inflicting a major defeat on their opponents.

What was next?

Moreover, how had all of this – the invasion of the UK mainland and before that the world war which was still raging – happened?

How had it come to this?
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