|Battle of Ivančice|
LT vz. 35 light tanks during the Battle of Ivančice on October 24, 1938.
|Date||October 20 - October 28, 1938|
|Result||Decisive Czech victory|
The Battle of Ivančice was a military engagement between the Republic of Czechoslovakia and Nazi Germany fought between October 20 and 28, 1938, in the vicinity of the village of Ivančice, south-west of Brno, Czechoslovakia.
It was the largest armoured engagement of the campaign, and one of the major Czech victories in the war. The attack gained initial success but the Czechs eventually had to withdraw in the evening of October 28. By then the 2. Panzer-Division and the 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.) had suffered severe losses among their armoured vehicles. After the engagement, they had lost 25% of its strength, and following the battles of Battle of Brno and the Battles of Otnice, Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky, the division was only half the strength it had when military operations began just a month earlier.
Prelude of the battle
At 9:00 on October 20, the forward elements of the 2. Panzer-Division had reached the town of Ivančice, while elements of the 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.) had secured its left flank along the villages of Lhánice, Biskoupky and Hrubšice. After an hour of searching for hidden defenders in Ivančice, they held a break in order to prepare for their assault on the village of Oslavany, where they meant elements of the 6. divize “Kalvoda” had set up positions.
In Rosice, Brig. Gen. František Tallavania, the commanding officer of 6. divize “Kalvoda”, was given an order from Div. Gen. Alois Eliáš, the commanding officer of V. sbor “Kolár”, to hold off the Germans at the defensive line running through Čučice, Oslavany, Padochov and Neslovice for as long as possible.
Arm. Gen. Lev Prchala, the commanding officer of the IV. armáda ”Neruda”, was planning an counterattack in that area in order to halt, or at least cause problems for the advance of the XVIII. Armeekorps towards Brno. The plan was the following:
The attack would be carried out in three phases:
- Before the battle, the necessary motorised units would be mobilized in the vicinity of the town of Příbam na Moravě. Until the units had been regrouped, resupplied and prepared for the counterattack, the 6. divize “Kalvoda” would hold the line along the villages of Čučice, Oslavany, Padochov and Neslovice. The participating units for the counterattack would be carried out by the V. sbor “Kolár”, under overall command of Div. Gen. Alois Eliáš. The re-inforcement for the counterattack would consist of the 2. rychlá divize “Ondřej”, the 14. divize “Fibich” (the only motorised division of the ČSR Army) and the 13. divize ”Úprka”.
- The second phase of the counterattack would begin after the V. sbor “Kolár” had moved south and rendezvous with the 6. divize “Kalvoda”. They would then wait for the German to attack with their armoured units. As the Germans moved over the open landscape in front of the villages, the defenders in the Oslavany would hold it for as long as possible, and then fall back into the forest. As the tanks entered the town, the 2. rychlá divize “Ondřej” would advance in a pincer movement and cut of the tanks from the advancing German infantry. While the Czech infantry holds the Germans off, the Czech tanks will attack the German tanks from the rear. After completing this, the spearhead consisting og the 2. rychlá divize “Ondřej” and the 14. divize “Fibich” would attack in the direction of Ivančice and secure it. On the second day of the counterattack, the 13. divize ”Úprka” would advance southwards while the 6. divize “Kalvoda” secures the left flank of the corps.
- The third phase would begin on the fourth day, after the advancing troops had regrouped. With sufficient artillery and infantry support, the 2. rychlá divize “Ondřej” would split up into two advancing spearheads. One of them would advance in the direction of Moravský Krumlov, while the second would along the Jihlava river and capture Dolní Kounice. The main part of the 13. divize ”Úprka” would secure the right flank by capturing the villages of Jamolice and Dobřínsko, while the remaining would support the advance at Moravský Krumlov. The 14. divize “Fibich” would spit into two units; one supporting the advance on Moravský Krumlov and the second the advance on Dolní Kounice.
The plan was bold, but if successful would give the Germans fighting in the suburbs of Brno serious problems. If they could delay the Germans for a while, that would be enough time for the Soviet troops to take positions in the Brno area.
Phase I: Defending the line
Around noon on October 20, a Fieseler Fi-156 Storch reconnaissance aircraft reported that the Czechs had set up positions around the village of Oslavany. The Germans then ordered an artillery barrage on the Czech positions around the village. The Czech artillery in that area was somewhat weaker, but managed to fire back, resulting in several German casualties. After the preparations, the Germans attacked in the direction of Oslavany and Neslovice.
The 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.) met heavy resistance in Neslovice, while a combined effort from artillery, machine guns and anti-tank guns forced the 2. Panzer-Division to fall back to Ivančice.
At 16:00 the Germans attacked the Oslavany again, this time with support from Stuka dive bombers. As the Germans advanced towards the villages, they were again met by artillery, machine guns and anti-tank guns, and the attack was once again repulsed. Except for a series of artillery duels, the front was quiet for the night.
At 8:00 on September 21, the Germans began shelling the positions in Čučice and Oslavany, while Stuka dive bombers attacked the artillery positions north of Padochov and Neslovice. A group of Avia B-534 managed to shoot down a couple of the dive bombers before they returned to base, but in the following aerial clash were eight B-534s lost while destroying four Messerschmitt Bf-109 while damaging a fifth.
At 10 o'clock they attacked with moderate strenghth towards Oslavany, but were thrown back. However, to the Czech's shock, elements of the 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.) supported by a group of tanks 2. Panzer-Division broke through at Čučice and were advancing towards Zbýšov, threatened the soldiers defending Oslavany. As the planned counterattack and the frontline now were at the brink of collapse, Brig. Gen. František Tallavania personally led a company of infantry and a battery of 100 mm Skoda howitzers from Rosice and set up positions southwest of Důl Anna and Zbýšov. When the German infantry were within 300 metres they opened fire with heavy and light machine guns while using the howitzers against the tanks. The Germans were taken completely by surprise, and over 120 soldiers were killed, along with 14 of the 20 tanks used in the breakthrough were destroyed. Supported by the remaining defenders from Čučice they forced the Germans back across the Oslava river.
On his way towards Oslavany, Brig. Gen. Tallavania's staff vehicle was strafed by an Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter, and the driver was subsequently killed. The car crashed into the ditch, and he suffered several injuries, including a broken arm and several bullet wounds. Against the medical personnel's wishes, he continued to Oslavany so he could take direct command of the defence. At 23:00 he was telephoned from his adjutant in Rosice that the 2. rychlá divize “Ondřej”, the 14. divize “Fibich” and the 13. divize ”Úprka” had reached Příbam na Moravě, and they would be prepared to move out by noon the next day.
Phase II: First counterattack
The following morning the positions around the villages of Čučice, Oslavany, Padochov and Neslovice came under heavy artillery fire, and at 9 o'clock the 2. Panzer-Division and the 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.) advanced along a wide front towards the Czech positions. According to plan, the Czech anti-tank guns in Oslavany destroyed a couple of Pz.Kpfw. I tanks before withdrawing northwards. However, confusion arose when a German motorcycle unit and a couple of tanks reached the bridge over the Oslava river before the remaining soldiers managed to withdraw, and fierce close combat action began. In the middle of the fighting the Czech soldiers were being shelled by a Pz.Kpfw. IV. Brig. Gen. Tallavania, seeing that the soldiers would not be able to retreat, took a gasoline bomb and ran up on the side of the building next to the tank. He managed to destroy it, but was shot dead by a German rifleman shortly afterwards. At the same time, infantry elements had captured Padochov.
Div. Gen. Alois Eliáš, the commanding officer of V. sbor “Kolár”, was taken by surprise of the fast advance of the German troops and ordered his units to begin the counterattack three hours earlier than planned. As the Czech tanks were advancing on the flanks of the German tanks in Padochov they met a group of tanks on their way towards Padochov. However, the Germans were taken by surprise, and 17 tanks were destroyed while only losing seven LT vz. 35 light tanks to enemy fire. They then closed the pincer in the outskirts of Oslavany. As a company of 14. divize “Fibich” secured the rear flank of the pincer from German infantry, the tanks closed in on the German tanks in Oslavany. After two hours of fierce fighting, the German troops surrendered to the Czechs. 200 soldiers were taken prisoner, and two Pz.Kpfw. II light tanks were captured (due to lack of ammunition). The two tanks were taken back to Příbam na Moravě, where it was repainted and rearmed with 20 mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannons.
After the Czechs had regrouped, they advanced again north and south of Ivančice. At 13:30 elements of the 30th Mot. Border Batallion had secured the village of Letkovice, 1 km southwest of Ivančice, and an hour later the 2nd Recon Battalion reached Němčice. At the same time the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 14. divize “Fibich” secured the area east of the town, thus cutting off the Germans in Ivančice from the main bulk of the XVIII. Armeekorps. The next morning, at 06:45, the Czech artillery opened fire on the German positions around and in the town. The saturation of the bombardment lasted two hours. At 9:00, the German defences were attacked from three sides by Czech tanks and infantry. Initially the losses among Czech infantry were high, but after an aerial bombardment of the German defences by a couple of Avia B-71 fast bombers they managed to break through the defences around the town, and by noon they had secured it.
Here they captured 100 German soldiers as well as several machine guns and mortars. At 13:00 the Czechs was caught by surprise when a German counterattack comprising of a small infantry detachment forced them to fall back from Němčice. The Germans left during the night, and the front was quiet until the next morning.
Phase III: Further advances
At 8 o'clock on October 23 Brig. Gen. JUDr. Josef Koutňák, the commanding officer of 2. rychlá divize “Ondřej", received a telegram that 15 of the new modern LT vz. 38 light tanks were at his disposal in Moravský Krumlov, along with 10 LT vz. 35 tanks and 3 OA vz. 30 armoured cars from the 3rd Tank Batallion. These were brought to Ivančice, and around 11 o'clock they were deployed with the other tanks and the infantry of the 14. divize “Fibich” along the line Nová Ves-Alexovice-Němčice.
At noon German artillery began shelling the Czech positions in and around Ivančice, and a reconnaissance aircraft reported that there was massive armoured units preparing to attack in the direction of Ivančice. As a result, the V. sbor “Kolár” prepared to hold the line from the German attack. One hour later, Czech forward observers reported that a German reconnaissance unit had reached the village of Budkovice and the German tanks would reach the Czech defences within the next hour. Subsequently the Czechs began shelling the fields south of the village, resulting in heavy German artillery shelling of Nová Ves, Alexovice, Němčice and Ivančice. At the same time, Junkers Ju-87B Stukas of 2./St.G. 168 attacked the positions south of Ivančice while Heinkel He-111 bombers of 3./KG 254 attacked the town itself.
While destroying 6 tanks and several artillery pieces, 4 Stukas and 2 Heinkel He-111 were shot down; 2 of them by anti-aircraft fire and the remaining were shot down by Avia B-534 pilots. The pilot Karel Miroslav Kuttelwascher managed to shot down 1 Stuka and 1 Heinkel before he and the other fighters were forced to flee as a group of Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters appeared at the scene, shooting down 3 B-534s.
At 13 o'clock the large elements of the 2. Panzer-Division and the 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.) began its assault on the Czech troops in Nová Ves, Alexovice, Němčice and Ivančice. The German armoured elements, consisting of Pz.Kpfw. I and Pz.Kpfw. II light tanks and Sd.Kfz. 222 and Sd.Kfz. 231 armoured cars, were this time sufficiently supported by motorised infantry. Around 2 km south of the Czech lines, the German soldiers left their trucks and began their advance towards Ivančice. 500 m from Nová Ves, Alexovice and Němčice the Czech machine guns opened fire on the Germans. The Czech infantry came under heavy fire from the German armour, infantry and artillery, and thus suffered heavy losses. However, the German tanks had not discovered the hidden Czech tanks, who now began to open fire. The German light tanks had little chance to destroy the Czech tanks, especially the Pz.Kpfw. I, which was only armed with two machine guns. The German tanks began to suffer heavy losses, and after three hours of fighting, the German tanks attacking in the direction of Alexovice began to retreat.
At Němčice the Germans had better luck, and after an hour of fighting the Germans had broken through the positions held by the Czech infantry, and thus began to retreat or were taken prisoner. The German tanks advanced north of Němčice. The Germans were surprised of the limited resistance of the Czechs, but continued towards Ivančice. However, this was a deliberate act by Brig. Gen. JUDr. Koutňák, who used this to his advantage, and attacked the German light tanks from the rear and the sides with his LT vz. 35 and 38 tanks. The surprise was complete. The Germans were slaughtered, and 21 tanks were destroyed, while 5 were captured, more or less damaged. As a result the German tanks retreated from Němčice. In the evening, the Czechs redeployed their troops around the village of Němčice.
The next morning the Germans attacked with larger strength than the day before, and a further 6 tanks and 20 trucks fell victim to the German artillery. At noon the Germans began their advance towards Němčice and Nová Ves. To the west, the 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.) had reached the towns of Hrubšice and Řeznovice, and began now to cross the river Jihlava.
To the east, the German tanks, supported by infantry, motorcycles and artillery, began to shell the Czech defences in Němčice, resulting in massive losses on the Czech side. However, the German light tanks were not able to break through the lines, and thus retreated after two hours of fighting. However, one hour later they attack with renewed strength, this time equipped with the heavier Pz.Kpfw. III and IV tanks. The Czechs were taken by surprise of the strength of these two tanks, supported by light tanks and infantry, and the Germans broke through the lines and destroyed 7 Czech tanks in the process. The Germans advanced towards the southern part of Ivančice, but a counterattack by Czech LT vz. 35 and 38 light tanks, supported by artillery and Letov Š-328 light bombers forced the Germans to retreat, but not without heavy losses on both sides. In the evening, the Germans had withdrawn to Budkovice, and the Div. Gen. Alois Eliáš, through Arm. Gen. Lev Prchala, ordered the V. sbor “Kolár” to advance south and east.
On the fifth day, one day behind schedule, the 2. rychlá divize “Ondřej” split up into two advancing spearheads. One of them began the advance in the direction of Moravský Krumlov. In the end of the day, the Czechs had secured the villages of Budkovice, Rokytná and Polánka, capturing 300 German soldiers in the process. In the east, the Czechs had reached the town of Moravské Bránice, and were now only 1 km from the town of Nové Bránice, while in the west elements of the 13. divize ”Úprka” had secured the right flank by capturing the villages of Jamolice and Dobřínsko.
Now the situation presented the Czechs with a rare opportunity to enjoy modest numerical superiority over the Germans. On October 26, the Czechs began to shell the German defenders in Moravský Krumlov, while the Czech managed to secure Nové Bránice. In the morning of October 27, the Czechs had achieved most of their goals with the counterattack. Although the Czechs had difficult time seizing control of Moravský Krumlov, reserves were thrown in, including some LT vz. 35 and 3 of the T-28 medium tanks, which had been given to Czechoslovakia as a gift, and the German defences finally crumbled. At 5 o'clock the Czechs had managed to secure Dolní Kounice, capturing a further 200 German prisoners.
By October 28, the German divisions were in retreat and the Czechs had captured over 1500 prisoners. However, the situation in Brno forced Prchala to order the Czechs to retreat back to their lines before the counterattack began on October 20, with a smaller force defending Ivančice.
The battle was the largest armoured engagement of the campaign, and one of the major Czech victories in the war. After the engagement, the 2. Panzer-Division had lost 25% of its strength, and following the battles of Battle of Brno and the Battles of Otnice, Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky, the division was only 35% the strength it had when military operations began just a month earlier.
The German losses were heavy: 3000 soldiers were killed, and 7000 injured, as well as 1500 were taken prisoner. A total of 103 German tanks were lost in the battle - 13 tanks were captured, which were rearmed with Czech weapons and used as replacement tanks where needed. The Czechs lost 23 tanks and four armoured cars, as well as 4000 men and 6000 injured.
|Invasion of Czechoslovakia|
| Battle of the Border|
Opava • Bruntál • Šatov • Znojmo • Křelovice • České Budějovice