1939-era Polish cavalry

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Errhile
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1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Errhile » Wed Mar 28, 2018 5:53 am

First of all, hello from a new forumite :)

I’ve noticed somewhere a voice of someone interested in seeing a 1939-era Polish cavalry platoon for CoC.

Now, I can’t put it effectively through the CoCulator - I have no idea how to handle the horses - but I have come by a detailed structure of a Polish cavalry platoon as of 1939 (based on official Cavalry’s Regulations, 1938). So, I’ll write it done there, and hope someone can make it into a fully-fledged list :)

Polish Uhlan platoon, 1939 structure:
Note: all the platoon members carry sabres, so I skipped listing them for every trooper.

As for lances, 3 men in every line section (the front rank of it) were equipped with lances as per 1938 Cavalry Regulations. However, by 1939 the lances were considered outdated, and relegated to parade duty only (or at least, so claim the sources I’ve read). Some squadrons supposedly took their lances to war anyway.

Platoon HQ:
1 Porucznik (Lieutenant i.e. Senior Leader) with a Handgun
1 Wachmistrz (Wachtmeister - platoon’s senior NCO, i.e. Senior Leader) with a Rifle
2 platoon’s runners (messengers), Rifles
1 horse handler*

* I’ll be describing the role of horse handlers below

3x line section
1 sekcyjny (section leader, I can’t tell how independent he was so therefore he could be anywhere between Inferior and Superior Junior Leader), Rifle
3 Uhlans, Rifles
2 horse handlers, Rifles

Note: in section #2, platoon’s marksman (i.e. the guy who was the best shot in the platoon) was given with a wz.35 Ur AT rifle & a handgun.

1x MG section
1 sekcyjny (section leader), Rifle
1 MG team with BAR (the assistant had a Rifle, too, but under CoC rules that does not matter)
2 horse handlers, Rifles (they took care of the section’s pack horse, too).

I’d suggest using the 2 runners from the platoon HQ for the AT Rifle crew, this way we’ll have everybody accounted for, without having to gut the #2 line section. It is very small already, after all.


As for horse handlers: the basic mode of operation for the Uhlans was the mounted infantry tactics. Ride the horses for transportation, dismount, fight on foot. Remount for maneuver. After all, you can’t make much use of cover while on horseback…
But that meant someone had to take care of the horses when the section was in combat.
The structure and regulations do imply that one trooper was able to lead 3 horses (so, 2 horse handlers could look after all the 6 horses in a section). However, if the horses were to be kept in one place (or, perhaps, advance very slowly), one handler was enough for up to 6 horses.

Now, this could be dealt with in a number of ways in CoC:
[list*]Keep it simple - the section deploys on table entirely on foot, the horses are kept off-table. The section may be, then, 4, 5 or (not really realistic) even 6-man strong. I’d keep it to 5 men in such a case (the 6th is off-table, handling all the horses, and does not play any role in the game).[/list]
[list*]Keep it true to history - the section is 6-man-strong while mounted, but detaches a 1-2-man team to handle the horses when they dismount. Note that this was a well-practised maneuver (quite essential to the way Uhlans fought) so I believe it shouldn’t require the use of a Leader’s Command Initiative.[/list]

Command dice of an Uhlan platoon:
Can’t really say. The cavalry was considered an elite corps in the Polish Army, but I’m not sure how “elite” they were in terms of battlefield initiative (which is represented with Command Dice). I'm afraid they were not on the same level as late-war paratroopers and the like 9who get represented with 6 command dice in CoC).
I’d play it safe and go for 5 dice, myself.

However, to represent Uhlans espirit de corps and the extra training they got in close combat with their sabers (as a number of unlucky German infantrymen had experienced, a proper cavalry charge does hurt real bad even in the Blitzkrieg era. Of course, this requires an unprepared target - camped or on the march - and the element of surprise), I’d rate them as Aggressive Troops.

National Characteristic:
As you’ve probably noted, an Uhlan platoon has no integral light mortar, therefore they can’t make use of the National Characteristic presented in the Polish Infantry Platoon rules (“Granatnik- ognia!”). They’d need something else to give them an edge.
Can’t say I have an idea, really.

Support lists:

A cavalry regiment (though closer to a battalion in size) had organic support of:

Machinegun teams
Tachanka teams (a light cart with a MMG on it, capable of firing on the move. While primarily a Russian invention of the WW1 origin, there were purpose-built tachankas in Polish cavalry units. Think of it like a Jeep with a MG on it).
Wz.36 37mm Bofors AT gun teams
Engineers (however, I’d rule out the flamethrower teams. Flamethrowers were rare in Polish Army of 1939-era, and while a few infantry regiments had a small number of these, I have not found any mention of cavalry units being likewise equipped).
Bicycle-mounted infantry (platoon structure as per cavalry line section, except of course no handlers had to care for the bicycles…)

A cavalry brigade’s assets included:

75mm field gun teams
40mm Bofors AA gun teams
Armored cars (wz.34, only one brigade still had the older wz.29)
TK-3 / TKS recon tanks (while ⅖ of there were intended to be armed with 20mm wz.38 HMG/autocannons, in reality very few have been converted, so basic MG-armed TK-3 / TKS dominated).
Medics / stretcher-bearer parties.
Infantry sections (from a brigade’s rifle battalion)

Note that any other support options - especially tanks - were a part of a separate unit (in case of tanks - a detached tank company in most cases).
Also, there is no Forward Observer party included: a cavalry brigade lacked any mortars (except, perhaps, their own rifle battalion’s), so should a forward observer make it ot the table, it means a nearby infantry battalion is lending some fire support.


Cavalry as a support choice for a Polish Infantry platoon:
Well, that’s more as a curiosity, but a reconaissance company (in an Infantry Regiment) had a cavalry platoon, too.
It had 5 line sections and two MG sections (basically identical to cavalry line or MG sections). The main difference was the lack of designated horse handlers in scout line sections (so, my guess, dismounting and keeping the mounts out of harm’s way would require detaching a team with leader’s Command Initative). They don’t seem to have had sabers, and I wouldn’t count them as Aggressive Troops. Aslo, scratch the horse handler in platoon’s HQ.
The other platoon of a recon company was a bicycle platoon, consisting of two almost standard infantry sections, just riding bicycles.

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Arlequín
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Arlequín » Wed Mar 28, 2018 8:00 am

Welcome to the forum! :)

That is some excellent information too, thanks for sharing!

Sadly the ground scale of CoC doesn't really cater for transported troops, it usually presumes they dismounted from their horses, bikes, trucks and even armoured vehicles, before they appear on table. Something scenario specific, like an ambush might work, but BARs and AT rifles need to dismount.

Cavalry in all armies consider themselves elite. The reconnaissance company in the infantry were 'mounted infantry' and not cavalry, which is why there were no swords and rifles were carried, not carbines. The Germans did the same thing in their infantry.

If someone really wanted to use mounted troops, there are some rules in the 2014 Christmas Special for the Great War which could be borrowed.

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Seret
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Seret » Wed Mar 28, 2018 8:57 am

Yeah, great first post Errhile!

I think your suggestions are sound. The one thing that makes me a little nervous about the list are the very small squad sizes. With only 5 men and no LMG per squad you've not got a lot of combat power there. But that's not unlike some other platoons out there.

On the plus side you've got plenty of leaders and I make the platoon rated at something like -4, so against a German platoon rated -1 you're already a long way towards a bicycle infantry squad, or an MG (and a TKS is only List 3!)

For the national characteristics I'd suggest doing something with the patrol phase to reflect the great mobility of the cavalry in pre-game scouting. Maybe give them some free moves, or up their move distance from 12"?

You could make some cool JOPs for this platoon, if you could find or convert miniatures of your horse holders and the nags they'd be ideal.

Errhile
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Errhile » Wed Mar 28, 2018 9:34 am

Thank you :)

Hmm. Caveat: I am yet to play my first game of CoC (well, my mate who wants to play it with me is still yet to buy himself some minis :(), so my grasp of the rules is... not as good as i'd like it to be, but...

I don't think extra movement for Patrol Phase would be the right thing to do here. After all, even in the era of late war tech level, with motorized scouts and the like, it is still 12". Tweaking the rule just for one platoon type is getting it too deep IMO.

However, I think we could reflect boh the eliteness and extra mobility by having the Uhlans deploy like Elite troops, i.e. within 9" of a JOP.

As for squad size, true, the tiny 5-man squad is going to be a major issue: Uhlan sections are going to be very brittle. Compared to a standard Polish Infantry section of that time (19 men total), that's hardly a surprise... most historical accounts I've read don't really mention cavalry operating in less than a squadron-size (company-equivalent), which was considered more-or-less equivalent to an infantry platoon in firepower.

Not to mention, as @ Seret observed, it makes for a very "cheap" platoon, allowing for some significant support. Having a TKS or maybe a wz.34 armored car thrown in just as a balancing factor when compared to a German platoon... I guess it would require some testing.

The horses. I wonder if we couldn't use standard vehicle mounting / dismounting rules there. After all, cavalry (or even mounted infantry) is all about having the horses, right...? But on the other hand, you might be right that given the scale of the game, it would be too much trouble for too little gain...

Peter
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Peter » Wed Mar 28, 2018 9:45 am

Aren't some Italian sections bigger than that platoon? :)

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Seret
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Seret » Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:00 am

Errhile wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 9:34 am
However, I think we could reflect boh the eliteness and extra mobility by having the Uhlans deploy like Elite troops, i.e. within 9" of a JOP.
That would work. I'm a fan of reusing existing rules instead of concocting new ones, where possible.
The horses. I wonder if we couldn't use standard vehicle mounting / dismounting rules there. After all, cavalry (or even mounted infantry) is all about having the horses, right...? But on the other hand, you might be right that given the scale of the game, it would be too much trouble for too little gain...
I think having them fight dismounted as the default is the way to go, but at some point wargamers are going to want to put a squad of nicely painted cavalry on the table and have them go charging across the board. Let's be honest it would be great fun, and there are even some sound tactical reasons why you might do so. I'd suggest making it a support option to mount a squad?

Errhile
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Errhile » Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:23 am

Seret wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:00 am
I think having them fight dismounted as the default is the way to go, but at some point wargamers are going to want to put a squad of nicely painted cavalry on the table and have them go charging across the board. Let's be honest it would be great fun, and there are even some sound tactical reasons why you might do so. I'd suggest making it a support option to mount a squad?
Actually, why not? It shouldn't be really expensive, I guess. Though it is going to complicate things a bit, since suddenly there is the additional rifleman present in each squad entering the game on horseback, and getting removed from it as soon as the squad dismounts.

I fear we're about to open a can of worms here.

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Arlequín
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Arlequín » Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:38 am

You could run a Uhlan platoon as a 'section' at its dismounted strength, with a SL+JL, 3 teams of four Uhlans and the BAR team. Multiplied that by how many platoons there were in a squadron (3? 4?), or even deploy it as a detachment of two platoons if that proves too costly in terms of force rating.

Don't worry about horseholders too much, you can count them against shock, but the trade is mounted mobility against losing two rifles worth of firepower when/if they dismount.

We had the same problems with cavalry and also unusually organised units in CoC: España, so that might offer some inspiration.

Errhile
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Errhile » Wed Mar 28, 2018 11:41 am

Arlequín wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:38 am
You could run a Uhlan platoon as a 'section' at its dismounted strength, with a SL+JL, 3 teams of four Uhlans and the BAR team. Multiplied that by how many platoons there were in a squadron (3? 4?), or even deploy it as a detachment of two platoons if that proves too costly in terms of force rating.
3 line platoons per squadron, plus squadron's HQ (basically a standard BAR section as seen in a platoon), squadron commander (SR), & his horse handler and a trumpeter - both of whom we could easily ignore, as they wouldn't be making much of a difference. No real company command elemnt

A total paper strength of a squadron was 4 officers, 108 other ranks (inc. NCOs)*, 4 BARs, 3 AT rifles, 98 sabers, 95 rifles.

* 20 of these were in the squadron's baggage train, so obviously shouldn't be counted when we're estimating squadron's fighting strength.

Comparing to an infantry company, well... the baggage train was 10 men in the infantry, but the company commander had 11 men in his company HQ - two stretcher-bearer parties of 3, 3 runners, and 2 (NCO) observers.
An infantry company was 226 men total, 10 of them in the baggage train.
A cavalry squadron was 112 men total, 20 of them in the baggage train.


I mean, I think I get where you're going - field the Uhlans as a reinforced group made of 2 platoons combined. This would give us a more reasonable manpower (56 men in 2 platoons combined). However, it doesn't solve the problem of 1. having very small sections (5-6 men), 2. still having a limited number of dice to activate them. I mean, even with 4 senior leaders on table, we still get only 5 dice - and every platoon consists of 4 sections and an AT rifle team.

We could kitbash a bit, and make a platoon deploy as 2 squads - section 1 made of 1st & 2nd line section (10 men, possibly including the AT rifle as support), section 2 made of 3rd line section & MG section (9 men). I guess they kept close anyway, since their lack of manpower as individual sections is pretty evident... that, however, is theorycrafting that had little to do with real-life structure and regulations.


Now as we speak of it - at 5 (effectively. Let's assume the 6th is off-table with the horses) men per section - I'd say the section is as small or smaller than elements of an infantry squad / section in several other armies. Tweaking the CoC rules a bit, I could suggest two things:
1. Treat an Uhlan section as a Team for the purpose of entrenchment (one entrenchment being enough to conceal the entire section)
2. Allow it to activate as a Team or as a Squad (of course, this still means you'd need a 3 to activate their JL, but being able to move & fire using a 1 or 2 is quite an advantage).
So, while a cavalry platoon can't really withstand damage, it would allow it to be very active on the battlefield. Note that this applies to the cavalrymen themselves only - non-cavalry support options would still be using standard activation dice results.


I guess there'd be no better test to it than some actual playtesting, though!

Contrarius
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Contrarius » Wed Mar 28, 2018 1:52 pm

Also my first post. I'm currently painting up Polish and German CoC forces for the September 39 campaign, and was hoping to expand them with some cavalry, certainly for the Poles and possibly for the Germans too, perhaps no more than one section a side.

Just thought you might like to know that the Polish model manufacturer First to Fight plans to release Polish uhlans in both mounted and dismounted packs in its 1/72 range. The moulds are currently being produced and with a bit of luck we might see one or both packs before YE 2018.

Also, IIRC the Polish cavalry fielded a much higher proportion of AT rifles than the infantry, as well as tachankas to transport their Vickers-type MMGs, mentioned in the excellent OP. These MMGs were intended to be dismounted but could be used in mounted mode. Both options seem a good way to beef up the rather lack lustre arsenal available to the standard Polish infantry platoon. (My Polish infantry force, with its 54 infantry figures, maybe resilient but that's little consolation when facing a couple of Panzer IIs plus three MG34s each burping out 10D6 every phase.)

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