Mid December 1942: Stalingrad Pocket.
In the freezing city, cut off hundreds of miles to the east, the young Leutnant Hausser and his squad returns, having re-joined their unit on the north-west corner of the pocket facing a determined and ruthless enemy. With the Germans and their allies inside the encircled city desperately short of food and ammunition, the Russians ensure the aromas of their own cooking are known to the isolated defenders, taunting their trapped enemy.
As the battle for the city heightens and progresses towards 1943, Leutnant Hausser and his men face the challenges of survival itself, knowing their predicament is little less than precarious. Hope may soon descend into desperation...perhaps this is where their war will end, in a frozen hell.
As the Panzer Tanks of the relief effort (Operation Winter Storm) struggle towards the city in severe weather and bitter temperatures, the Russians move troops between the advancing units and the defenders in the pocket in efforts to halt any breakthrough.
Erich Von Manstein, the German Field Marshal in charge of the relief effort requests the defenders in Stalingrad muster an attempted breakout towards the approaching soldiers to split the Russian defenders. Hitler refuses this action unless the surrounded and starving Sixth Army can hold the positions on the Volga and link up with the relief effort, some 35 miles away, an impossible set of conditions.
With only 20 to 25 miles worth of fuel left, the Stalingrad defenders are unable to comply with the request, leaving the full force of the Russian Army to be utilized against the troops struggling to reach the surrounded army. In the frozen encircled city, the stranded and starving defenders on the banks of the Volga River hear that their countrymen on the edge of the pocket can see the flashes from fighting in the distance. They know the approaching German forces have all the food and supplies they require.
Further to the west, to the north of the Don Bend, the Russians are preparing another offensive operation. Before the Russian armies sits the weakened Italian Eighth Army, blocking their advance south west to Rostov on Don. Capturing the city on the banks of the Sea of Azov will cut off and seal the destruction of the entire southern sector of German forces and their allies.
Across the eastern front a clock commences ticking on loud speakers...a voice blaring across the snow after each set of chimes, "Every seven seconds, a German soldier dies in Russia". The propaganda clock then ticks again, repeating the message shortly afterwards. It is played for days across the snow.
Bloody Kessel is the sequel to both Bloody Iced Bullet and Bloody Rattenkrieg. This is the third book in the Bloody Stalingrad series, focusing on creating a realistic and historically accurate portrayal of the war in the east during World War Two. The characters are fictional, but all units, weaponry and actions are portrayed as they were in the winter of 1942.
©2017 Andrew McGregor (P)2017 Andrew McGregor