At D+18 of Operation Redrake, three squads of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils were moving out ahead of the Battalion, using their bayonets to probe the rubble as they crawled forward on their belt buckles. Wherever a squad of the engineers went, they were covered by an armoured sentinel from their own unit, autocannon slowly sweeping back and forth on overwatch.
The men of Y Company were perhaps slightly resentful that as line infantry their squads were not similarly protected. On occasion they might be issued a crew served weapon, but that was usual for defensive operations and not for an advance to contact like this. Of course, there were occasions where they did have to lug the crew served weapons during attacks, but no-one who actually had to help do this thought that it was ever worthwhile.
To a constant background of artillery and mortar fire, 17 Korps was pushing east to establish a forward line within the outer suburbs of Xyphonica. As a largely armoured formation, their infantry assets were leading the way, with the Palladians and Mordians of 905 Div to the south and Death Korps of 902 Div to the north, if fell to the men of the Valhallan 540th to establish a foothold in the centre. “Leading the way” the middle and junior ranking officers had long decided, was Generalspeak for ‘bearing the brunt’.
1* General Polkovnik Komenichi, whilst he doesn’t have anything heavier than a las cannon mounted on a wheeled carriage, has enjoyed intimate support from other parts of 17 Korps. Earlier on during the war, 903 Div included the remains of the Arcomet 887th Ork Hunters; itself a composite airborne and armoured formation quite suited to complimenting the Valhallan infantry. With their airborne assets rolled into 60 Airmobile Div (38 Corps) and their armour spread throughout 72 AG as battle casualty replacements, the Arcomet 887th is no more. For now, Gen Komenichi is reliant on what the other Divisions have allocated.
|Kasarkin Scouts from the Arocmet 887th, retained on a supernumary basis for over a year, forging through the outskirts.|
Of course, 904 (Corbanian) Div, the Korps reserve are immediately behind 903 Div and most of the ‘cab rank’ of fighter bombers allocated to support todays operation are directly overhead. So the Ozark Engineer Battalion’s squadrons are in good company when it comes to supporting the Valhallans. Once again their leading companies, preceded by the engineers, are accompanied by Armageddon Forward Observation Officers from the Korps Artillery units. Mordian mortar teams, both Griffin equipped units and mortar squads in Chimera are moving up with the Valhallans. The engineers armoured elements, hellhounds and demolishers, stand by to clear away bunkers, improvised or otherwise.
All of this is welcome, as today, Y Company, along with four others from the regiment’s three battalions are tasked with pushing through the urban landscape, pushing through the enemy’s recce screen and closing with the enemy’s established positions, pending the Korps’ assessment of their foothold in the district.
Operation Redrake began, in 17 Korps TAOR, with a huge demonstration of the power of artillery. Starting at D-14, All Korps heavy and medium artillery assets swept systematically into their line of advance to a depth of 800m. With a beaten zone of four square kloms, the six klom front is plastered for six hours until all of the buildings and other infrastructure features are flattened. Four years ago, a popular residential district of medium and high price dwellings inhabited by families, serviced by schools, clinics and churches, one of the success stories of the Dinorwic Cluster, is eradicated.
As D-8 approaches, the Armageddon 22rd Armoured Regt pulls up to the startline (the edge of the urban area). They, with their attached FOOs and FACs remain on overwatch over what was once a prosperous and pleasant place to live. Anything that moves, even if it is windblown debris or just ruins settling, attracts a disproportionate amount of direct and indirect fire.
At D-4 the Valhallans move from their laying up points onto the startline. The DMPC, so hated in peacetime, were now silently thanked under people’s breath for providing clear traffic routes through the fog of war to ensure that at least units started the next Operation in the right place. Routemasters, NCOs from the Necromundan 1st, quietly and without fuss, made sure that the Ozark Engineers passed through the Valhallans and then through the Armageddon tanks, holding them from D-2 to D-hour and then releasing them out into the sea of smashed buildings to forge a path through to the next line of built up area.
Already badly damaged by tank and artillery fire, the Ozark Engineers armoured elements scrape eight paths through the rubble and punch through tide mark of damage and into the city beyond. By D+2 the four leading battalions of the Valhallan 540th are fanning out into the city, seeking out the enemy.
Y Company with ‘their’ engineers (two squads, two Sentinels and one Bulldozer equipped Chimera) have found themselves under occasional mortar fire and attracted more files in the city than they did on the prairie, but have only now encountered the enemy, dug into the rubble of an elementary school destroyed months ago by strategic bombing. Unfortunately for Y Company, their line of approach is through a series of high rise apartment buildings.
The high rise buildings obscure the line of fire of any mortars or artillery. Y Company have to dislodge the enemy the hard way, at the minute, they have no idea how many there are, what they are armed with or if they intend to stand or fight.
Comrade Major Puchov could call up a squad of heavy bolters, allowing him to lay down a curtain of material destroying fire to cover an assault, but that would take time and there’s every chance that the enemy is a small detachment with orders to withdrawl after a brief firefight. The real hazards are likely to mines placed in areas any assaulting troops would be using for cover and booby traps in enemy fire positions. Comrade Major Puchov cannot ask the engineers to use the Chimera to assault the position – if the Chimera is destroyed by an ATGW, then his engineers would lose a lot of their capability to deal with booby traps and mines, thus leaving Y Company bereft of a much need asset.
In the end, the engineers agree to support the assault with the Sentinels and Chimera firing over the Valhallans. Comrade Major Puchov leads 3, 4 and 5 Platoons in a bayonet charge across the 30m of open ground whilst 1 and 2 platoons and his command team support by firing from the upper stories of the apartment blocks. The deluge of fire is triggered by a single shot from the Engineer Master Sergeant’s plasma pistol.
The brief charge is successful – what appears to be a reinforced platoon of the enemy is forced off their position by Y Company. The platoons lose eight men during the charge and six in the ensuing melee. Their efforts gain them four enemy dead and eleven wounded prisoners. The prisoners are dealt with as per 72AGs doctrine. It’s far too late in the war to take the chance that any of these people are redeemable.
The enemy have obviously only recently occupied the position. Most of the munitions recovered by the engineers are home-made, as the rebels are running short of everything this late in the war. It’s noted by the 1st Sergeant that two of the rebel bodies have cleaning kits and power cells but no las rifles – the best guess is that the rebels resources are so tight that they now have more soldiers than weapons.
At D+18 17 Korps, now 3km into the urban area, halt and consolidate their positions. Armour moves up and reinforces the FLOT and the lighter and medium artillery move into the back edge of the ruined residential district. Kitchens and forward fuel dumps are established and ammunition and water taken forward. The Korps reserve is brought up to scour the damaged city blocks between the rear areas and the front line.
18 Corps now (dusk the same day as 17 Korps begins its consolidation) begins its push into Xyphonica directly to the south, aiming for the ‘Rowin’ industrial district. 38 Korps begins its push into the commercial district and heads for the ‘Amazonis’ rail and highway nexus. The three assaults are on a converging course for the Basilica at the centre of the government zone in the centre of the city.
 Although anyone whose bacon was saved by those same weapons doubtless thought them indispensable.
 By this stage of the war, 903 Div is reduced to the Valhallans and a few hangers on. For most of the last year, 17 Korps has not tried to use 903 Div as a manoeuvre force on its own; but now faced with the imperative to break into the Xyphonica conurbation, 903 Div becomes the cheese slice in the Rye Bread sandwich. 2* Gen Tolstoy (Officer Commanding 17 Korps) expects to have fold the remains of 903 Div into other formations once 17 Korps has a decent foothold in the city.
 Although in truth part of the reason for the Valhallans having the lowest casualty rate in 72AG for the previous six months, crossing the prairie, has been that the brunt has been borne by the armour.
 901 (Cadian) Div is officially ‘resting’ for this operation, but is effectively co-located with 904 Div, who are stood by.
 Analogous to ten battalions of heavy and medium artillery.
 Departmento Munitorium Provost Corps. In 17Korps case, the Necromundan 1st Regt. And assorted Vostroyans from 7/157 First Born Infantry Regt.
 Less those armed with Grenade Launchers, who are left to fire a barrage in support.
 Three walking wounded, who are allowed by Commissar Thorski to pass to the rear bearing the locations of the dead for later recovery and interment.
 At least some factions.