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Battles of Otnice, Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky (Munich Goes Sour)

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Battles of Otnice, Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky
CSR Otnice, Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky
Czechoslovak soldiers fighting Germans at Bošovice on October 24, 1938.
DateOctober 23 - November 1, 1938
Result Decisive Czech-Soviet victory
Belligerents
Flag of Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia
Flag of the Soviet Union (1923-1955) Soviet Union
Flag of German Reich (1935–1945) Nazi Germany

Commanders
Flag of Czechoslovakia Brig. Gen. František Kravák
Flag of the Soviet Union (1923-1955) Komkor P. L. Romanenko
Flag of German Reich (1935–1945) Gen.Maj. Joachim Lemelsen


Strength
October 23:
• 20. divize “Bernolák”
October 26:
• 7. Strelkovaya Diviziya
• 23. Tankovaya Briygada
October 23:
• 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.)
Casualties and losses
1000 killed,
1,200 WIA,
13 tanks lost
1,500 killed, missing, captured or seriously wounded,
20 AFVs lost

The Battles of Otnice, Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky was a series of military engagements between the Republic of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany fought between October 23 and November 1, 1938, in the vicinity of the village of Otnice, Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky, southeast of Brno, Czechoslovakia.

Background

Following the German breakthrough in southern Moravia, the Germans could take advantage of their armed forces' motorisation and mobility, and by October 20 the Fourteenth Army had advanced at some places more 40 km inland, and the forward elements of the had reached the town of Pohořelice, 25 km southwest of Brno. While the 2. Panzer-Division secured the frontline around Brno, elements of the 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.) had captured the villages of Sokolnice, Šaratice and Otnice.

On October 22, the Germans pulled out of Otnice, which was the result of a communication error. On October 23, elements of the 20. divize “Bernolák”, under command of Brig. Gen. František Kravák, used the German's mistake to his advantage and occupied the village. The division had a shortage of anti-tank weapons, and the ammunition supply was also running out. However, he decided to hold the line along the villages of Otnice, Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky.

While the Hraniční pásmo XIV “Svatopluk” was engaging troops 2. Panzer-Division around Brno, Gen.Maj. Joachim Lemelsen was furious by the neglect of the company that had occupied Otnice, and ordered the division to take it back. At 10:00 a company of the 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.) entered Borkovany without meeting resistance.

The Battle

One hour later the continued towards Velké Hostěrádky, but outside the village the German vehicles crashing into a Czech roadblock. Then the Czech machine guns began firing on the German soldiers, killing the leading officer of the column. Confusion arose among the German soldiers, and screams and military commands could be heard, at one point the Czechs could hear a soldier yelling "Feige Tschechen die zuerst schiessen". The ensuing firefight continued until 1300 hours, ending with the German soldiers pulling back. The Czechs were reinforced and regrouped into new positions.

At 1600 hours Div. Gen. Alois Eliáš, commander of the V. sbor “Kolár”, received orders that the Czech forces defending the line Otnice-Bošovice-Velké Hostěrádky would be reinforced by elements of the 23. Tank Brigade, but until the Soviet units had reorganised to defend the sector, the Czechs were given the order to "Hold out at all costs".

Kravák then began preparations for further German attacks, placing anti-tank mines at key attack points, positioning anti-tank cannons and mortars and gathering ammunition and other equipment, with the help of the civilian population. The preparations were relatively uninterupted, except for German artillery fire.

The next morning the Germans attacked the Czech positions at Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky after a brief artillery barrage. The Germans attacked with full strength, but the attack failed to take the Czechs by surprise.

At 0830 in the morning the motorcycle reconnaissance squads of the 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.) made contact with the Czech defences at Velké Hostěrádky. Soon afterwards the AFVs arrived, supported by infantry. However, after several shots from the sides, the German tanks lost orientation, and the attack was repelled by heavy machine gun fire and mortar fire. Two AFVs retreated, while the majority of the motorcyclists were taken prisoner.

The Germans then mounted an assault on the Czech defences at Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky. After a short artillery barrage and aerial bombardment, the German motorised infantry dismounted from the trucks and advanced towards the Czech positions, but heavy small arms, machine gun and mortar fire forced the Germans to retreat.

In the evening of October 25 the Germans were reinforced by a company of Pz.Kpfw. I Ausf. B tanks, and the Germans regrouped and prepared for a new assault the following morning. At 0800 in the morning the Germans began to move out towards Velké Hostěrádky following a short artillery barrage and aerial bombardment. However, although the division lost some mortars, howitzers and approximately five ammunition cars, the bombs mostly missed the defensive positions and the advancing tanks were welcomed at 150 metres by well-positioned Czech 37 mm Bofors anti-tank guns. After two tanks were destroyed the German tanks withdrew at 400 metres and started shelling the Czechs with artillery, but after losing an additional two AFVs (one destroyed and one immobilized), the tanks retreated. At the same time the German infantry was left alone on a flat field, right in front of the Polish positions, without any cover. It was forced to retreat by a Czech attack that caused heavy losses and resulted in a number of prisoners being taken by the Czechs.

However, the Germans had almost eliminated the Czech defences at Otnice, but after 3 hours of close combat fighting the Germans retreated. Brig. Gen. Kravák knew that the situation at Otnice was critical, and another German attack would collapse the defences there. He could not replace the units, as they were fighting Germans at the Brno front.

The Germans also knew this, and thus ordered the main assault to take place at Otnice. At 0730 the Germans initiated a powerful artillery barrage and a aerial bombardment by Stukas on Otnice, even further limiting the Czech's defensive capability. On hour later the Germans launched their attack on the Czechs defences in Otnice, and after a short fight the Germans broke through the lines. As Brig. Gen. Kravák received reports of the fall of Otnice, Komkor P. L. Romanenko informed him that the 7. Strelkovaya Diviziya supported by a company of the 23. Tankovaya Briygada was ready to be deployed in the area. Kravák thus ordered the Soviet troops to counterattack in the direction of Otnice and then set up defensive positions in the abandoned Czech positions.

CSR Otnice, Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky 2

Red Army soldiers during the defence of Otnice, October 28, 1938.

It was therefore decided to counterattack eastwards, where the the most advanced German troops was known to be some two km northeast of Otnice. While T-26 tanks of the 23. Tankovaya Briygada engaged the German picket from the front whilst infantry of the 7. Strelkovaya Diviziya worked round their flanks. This soon induced the heavily outnumbered Germans to fall back from Otnice towards their main line, allowing the Russians to retake Otnice. The tanks continued down the road a little past Otnice whilst the Soviet infantry fanned out and began to deploy on a front of some four km on either side of them, between the villages of Otnice and Bošovice. The infantry first came under German artillery fire during the occupation of Ubrež, north of the road. At 1300 an attack was launched by the Germans on the Soviet line at Otnice. The Russian response was fierce and effective. The Germans had advanced across open ground to within one km of the town when they began to be struck by Russian field artillery and tank gun fire. The fighting faded out in the early evening, and the front line was relatively quiet for the next day, except for a few artillery shelling and machine gun fire.

At 0900 on October 28 a general attack was launched by the Germans on the main Czech-Soviet line at Otnice, Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky. After an artillery barrage and aerial bombardments the Germans advanced across open ground within one km of the town,they halted the advance. After a second artillery barrage was launched on the Czech-Soviet positions, the Germans continued the advance. Then they began to be struck by Czech field artillery and machine gun fire. The Germans continued to assault the villages, but the Germans failed in breaking through the lines. The fighting continued until the early afternoon of October 30.

The Czechs and the Russians had prepared for a counterattack on October 31, but the fall of Brno prevented the plan from being carried out. That day only artillery duels and machine gun fire broke the silence.

Aftermath

In the early morning of November 1, following the loss of Brno, Brig. Gen. Kravák ordered the Czech and Soviet troops to fall back to the defensive line along the villages of, km to the rear. The losses on both sides were quite high. The Germans lost approximately 1500 men (killed, missing, captured or seriously wounded), and 20 AFVs (12 of them tanks). The Czechs and the Russians lost 1000 killed and 1300 wounded, as well as 300 horses, several guns and 13 T-26 tanks.

See also

Invasion of Czechoslovakia
Battle of the Border
(Opava    Operation Freudenthal    Šatov    Znojmo   České Budějovice)

Bohemian front
(Plzeň    Prague)


Moravian front
(Olomouc    Brno)


Hungarian front
Komárno    Zvolen    Kosiče)

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