Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Soviet 4th Cavalry Corps

By Phil Gardocki

Organizational History 1941
When the Great Patriotic War started in mid 1941, the 4th Cavalry Corps was stationed in central Asia and patrolled the borders around Iran and Afghanistan. It originally consisted of three mountain cavalry divisions, 18th, 20th, and the 21st
  • 20,278 men
  • 36 × 7.62cm cannons
  • 24 × 10.7cm mortars
  • 48 × 5cm mortars
  • 12 × 4.5cm antitank guns
  • 24 × 3.7cm antiaircraft guns
  • 146 machineguns
  • 390 wagons
Before the year’s end, all three of the mountain cavalry divisions were sent to the front and replaced in the corps with newly raised divisions, so that by September 1942 the corps consisted of the 61st, 63rd and 81st Cavalry Divisions.
When the 4th Cavalry Corps finally went to war against the Axis powers, it was assigned to the 51st Army, Stalingrad front, in late 1942. It was under strength in most equipment and manpower, but was reinforced with the 149th Motorized Antitank Regiment (which, unfortunately for the Soviet troopers, had only 3 trucks as prime movers) and the 4th Antitank Battalion. In November and December 1942, the Corps mauled the Rumanian Cavalry Corps as well as many infantry units in a series of engagements and was the first unit to detect the German buildup for their Winter Storm counteroffensive, but was crushed by German panzer forces advancing to attempt to relieve Stalingrad.
By February, 1943, the remnants of the corps were withdrawn to be rebuilt in reserve by the Southwest Front, where it picked up a fourth cavalry division, the 97th. However, the 4th Cavalry Corps never saw combat again. The corps, as well as most of its component units, was disbanded in May 1943. The only component of the 4th Cavalry Corps to survive the war was the 63rd Cavalry Division, which was reassigned to the 5th Guards Cavalry Corps for the rest of the war.
There is a contradiction between different sources on the 4th Cavalry Corps some histories have the 4th Cavalry Corps participating in combat during the summer of 1943, whereas other sources state that the Corps went into reserve and was than disbanded in May 1943. 

Early 1943

  • 14,991 men
  • 16 × 12cm mortars
  • 36 × 8.2cm mortars
  • 58 × 7.62cm cannons
  • 24 × 4.5cm antitank guns
  • 24 × 3.7cm antiaircraft guns
  • 108 × 5cm mortars
  • 389 machineguns
  • 1 car
  • 3 trucks
  • 203 wagons
Note: The three-battery 4th artillery battalion is actually the 4th Heavy Mortar Battalion and the two-battery one is actually the 4th Horse Artillery Battalion.

Operational History

Initially, the Cavalry Corps structure was simply a division bucket, having only the headquarters staff as corps assets. Over time, additional artillery, antitank, and mortar battalions and regiments were acquired, while the cavalry divisions were downsized.
The main fighting force of the cavalry divisions were three cavalry regiments. These regiments consisted of 4 "sabers" of between 140 to 180 men. The weapons assigned to the sabers were a mix of rifles, machineguns, mortars, and unfortunately, actual sabers.
The real firepower available to the cavalry regiments was the substantial numbers of assigned artillery and antitank batteries on the regimental level. When the war began there were at least eight guns assigned to each regiment of 4.5 cm or greater, putting firepower where it was needed the most. By 1943, while the manpower per saber was reduced, the numbers of attached batteries increased to over 20 larger guns, along with a dramatic increase in submachine guns.
Early divisional artillery assets consisted of horse drawn artillery battalions, a light tank regiment, and antiaircraft battalions. However, the 4th Cavalry Corps was an unofficial "Mountain Cavalry Corps." Its artillery battalions consisted of 7.62cm cannons and 10.7cm mortars and it had no integral tank regiment.
Russian cavalry was deployed in a number of fashions. The porous nature of large parts of the front made raiding a viable option. Early in the war, cavalry was most often used as mobile infantry. Later in the war, as more tanks and trucks became available, cavalry was reorganized into cavalry-mechanized groups. These groups would constitute a small army with one or two cavalry corps and a mechanized or tank corps. The cavalry corps in these groups provided mobile infantry to open holes in the front for the mechanized or tank corps to exploit.


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