Here I am going to do a little research into what actually happens in real life tank battles to help me build up on my story as I feel it is not enough to hook people in. So here are a few I’ve looked into.
The Battle of Arras (1940)
Not to be confused with the 1917 Battle of Arras, this Second World War engagement featured the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) against the German Blitzkrieg as it advanced rapidly towards the French coast.
Rommel, pictured at center, mistakenly thought he was being attacked by five infantry divisions during the Battle of Arras. (Bundesarchiv, Bild)
On May 20, 1940 the BEF’s Viscount Gort ordered a counterattack, codenamed Frankforce, on the Germans. It involved two infantry battalions amounting to 2,000 men — and just 74 tanks. The BBC describes what happened next:
The infantry battalions were split into two columns for the attack, which took place on 21 May. The right column initially made rapid progress, taking a number of German prisoners, but they soon ran into German infantry and SS, backed by air support, and took heavy losses.
The left column also enjoyed early success before running into opposition from the infantry units of Brigadier Erwin Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division.
French cover enabled British troops to withdraw to their former positions that night. Frankforce was over, and the next day the Germans regrouped and continued their advance.
Frankforce took around 400 German prisoners and inflicted a similar number of casualties, as well as destroying a number of tanks. The operation had punched far beyond its weight — the attack was so fierce that 7th Panzer Division believed it had been attacked by five infantry divisions.
Interestingly, some historians believe this ferocious counterattack was what convinced the German generals to declare a halt on May 24 — a short break in the Blitzkrieg that allowed the BEF some added time to evacuate its troops during the Miracle at Dunkirk.
The Battles of Kursk (1943)
After the defeat at Stalingrad, and as the Germans were pushed inexorably back towards Berlin, German planners decided to make a bold, if not futile, stand at Kursk in hopes of regaining the initiative. The overall result was the largest prolonged engagement of heavy armour in the war, and one of the largest single armoured clashes in the form of the Battle of Prokhorovka.
German Panzers and some captured T-34s attack at Kursk.
The numbers are almost impossible to grasp: 3,000 German tanks set against nearly double that figure in Soviet armor. But as German tankers showed time and time again, they could hold their own on the battlefield despite being outnumbered and facing technologically superior machinery (though the Tiger and Ferdinand tanks were starting to close the gap).
The result was, in the words of historian Anthony Beevor, a “slogging match.” One SS tank commander managed to destroy 22 Soviet tanks in under an hour. Russian soldiers approached enemy tanks with “suicidal bravery,” getting close enough to throw mines under the tracks. Beevor writes:
“They were around us, on top of us and between us,” wrote [a German tanker]. “We fought man to man.” All German superiority in communications, movement, and gunnery was lost in the chaos, noise, and smoke. “The atmosphere was choking,” a Soviet tank driver recorded. “I was gasping for breath, with perspiration running in streams down my face.” The psychological stress was immense. “We expected to be killed at any second.” Those who were still alive and still fighting a couple of hours later were astonished. “Tanks even rammed one another,” wrote a Soviet onlooker. “The metal was burning.” The concentrated area of the battlefield was filled with burned-out armoured vehicles, exuding columns of black, oily smoke.
It’s important to note that this was as much a tank battle as it was an aerial battle. While all this was happening, planes duked it out in the skies while trying to pick off the tanks below.
After eight days of this, the attack was halted. Though the Russians won, they lost five armoured vehicles for every German panzer destroyed. In terms of actual numbers, the Germans lost about 760 tanks, and the Russians about 3,800 (for a total of 6,000 tanks and assault guns destroyed or badly damaged). In terms of casualties, the Germans lost 54,182 men, the Russians 177,847. Though lopsided, the Russians prevailed, and as Beevor notes, “Hitler’s lingering dream of securing the oilfields of the Caucasus was destroyed for ever.”
Looking at these real life events have given me some inspiration on the fact that it does not matter on the number of units a team has to win it’s about passion and having no fear!
I want to make my story very movie like so I’ll over dramatise the story and will amend my story again in my next blog.