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103rd Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

103rd Rifle Division
Country Soviet Union
BranchRed Army
EngagementsWorld War II
Battle honoursKhingan (3rd formation)

The 103rd Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Red Army, formed three times. It was first formed in 1939. It was converted into a motorized division and fought in the Yelnya Offensive. After being converted back to a rifle division it was destroyed in the Battle of Vyazma. The division reformed in early 1942 but was destroyed during the Second Battle of Kharkov. It was reformed a third time in the Far East in summer 1942 and participated in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria.

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  • ✪ How effective was the Tiger really?
  • ✪ Soviet–Afghan War | Wikipedia audio article


So lately my content was a bit tank heavy, so I fought the enter year with some heavy tanks, namely the Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausfuhrung E and B, better known as the Tiger and Konigstiger. (There are) quite many debates about these tanks, thus today we are gonna look if these tanks were actually combat effective beasts or just mere kittens. So how do you find effectiveness in this case? Well, Christopher Wilbeck proved the faeces on the effectiveness of tiger notes the following. Additionally, he also adds that a simple killed-death ratio might not be enough and notes that, Of course as many of you know, kill-to-loss ratio outside of computer games are very complicated issues. Not only to the problem of the definition what actually constitutes a loss, it also due to the issue that a lot of over-reporting were happening in terms of kill claims. Now for losses, we go with a total loss of Tiger, which means it could not be put in service again due to the excessive damage or loss to the enemy. This also means we have two lost numbers: the Combat losses and the Overall losses For instance, tanks that had to be abandoned were blown up by the crews yet were not destroyed in combat. In terms of kill claims, Wilbech looked at the data provided by the Germans on the Western Front and confirmed most data with detailed unit histories of the Western Allies. As such is the problem is that for the Eastern Front the source situations were rather bad. Sadly, Wilbeck does not mention how accurate the kill claims were on the Western Front, and he notes about the correctness of the Western Front loss data. Now, why the caution about the number of operational tanks? Well, this number might be wrong since it was the practice among German panzer divisions to under-report the operational strength by around 15 to 20 percent to rent high command to pull away panzer who use elsewhere. And for the extra losses of the tigers likely had little effect since the accounting for tigers was thorough. Sadly, for some King Tiger units, the unit war diaries were lost and/or captured Since always take everything with a grain of salt if the source situation is way better than many other situations. For instance, tank production costs, something I discussed on my second channel with more thoroughly. Of course, the kill-to-loss ratio are not for individual Tiger tanks since war is a team effort. In case of the Tigers and King Tigers, the primary form of organization was the heavy tank battalion: Schwere Panzerabteilung, each of which had an authorized strength of 45 Tigers or King Tigers. Although rarely all 45 were operational at the same time, and in one case a battalion never received the full complement of 45 Tigers. In total, there were 40 heavy tank battalions of which 10 were independent. Three were attached permanently to one panzerkorps each, and one was permanently attached to an elite army division. Since we got this flank covered, let's now look at the kill-to-loss ratio for each heavy tank battalion. But if we look at the combat losses first and then the kill numbers, additionally to get the bigger picture, we also look at the total losses. As such we can derive the kill-to-loss ratio in combat and in overall. First of here the combat losses for each battalion. Note that in some cases the cause of loss is unknown. Anyway, the highest amount of combat losses were for 503rd. And over the average combat loss ratio was around 45%, as such less than half of all tigers were lost in combat, assuming that the unknown losses were not combat losses. Second, here the total losses of each battalion. First note that the lowest number was for the 103rd. Yet this unit never received the full complement of the authorized 45 King Tigers. Then again, the 503rd had the most amount of losses, and lost more than five times the authorized strength of 45 Tigers per battalion. This, of course, is due to the fact that it was one of the first three heavy tank battalions, so extensive action over the course of the war. This is backed up when we look at the kill numbers. Here again, the 503rd has the highest number, followed by the 502nd, which both scored more than 1,000 kills. The worst number of kills are for the 508th battalion. So let's look now at the combat-(kill)-to-loss ratio. As you can see the 101st stands out clearly. Considering the circumstance in the high discrepancy of to the order units, this number is very likely wrong. We'll have big notes the following. Now, Wilbeck did not remove the 103rd from the list, whereas I added an additional line of data without considering the 103rd. Such the highest kill-to-loss ratio were around 19 tanks for each Tiger loss. Now, if you look at the 13 battalions that have regular number, six of them managed to score a kill-to-loss ratio higher than 10 tanks per Tiger. On average, including the 103rd, Wilbeck notes for each Tiger, 12.06 enemy tanks were destroyed, whereas without the 103rd, it's 11.52. Of course, if we take into account the non-combat losses the situation changes quite dramatically. And in this case, the 502nd seems to be the overall winner by a wide margin. As every other unit had lessened 10 kills per Tiger loss, the 502nd managed 13.08 against the average of around 5.25 enemy tanks per Tiger loss. As such the 502nd is a higher overall-kill-to-loss ratio and the average-combat-kill-to-death ratio But let's look at the oval picture again. Wilbeck concludes the following: As mentioned before, Wilbeck also outlined a second criterion, namely mission accomplishment. This is rather hard to measure for several reasons: First, originally Tiger was intended as a breakthrough tank, (but) it rarely saw offensive missions. Second, the Tiger units were often sent very hard to impossible missions over the course of the war. Also, there is no statistical data on mission evaluations. As such the answer was addressed indirectly by Wilbeck. He notes that the emphasis given by the Allies in various ways towards the Tiger and the heavy tank battalions shows that it was an effective weapon. For instance: Now, for those who don't know, after battalion comes the regiment and then comes the brigade and only then comes to division. So to put this a bit in perspective. Similarly, Allied forces usually tried to bypass Tiger units. As such he concludes, the Tiger units were effective, else the Allies would not have allocated so many resources against them. It should be noted that Wilbeck looked mainly at the tactical effectiveness, which is stated in his book. If one goes to the operational and especially strategic level the situation is quite different. If we look beyond the tactical aspect, the Tiger was a very expensive piece of equipment. Not just in production time and resources, but also logistical. The amount of fuel necessary to additional work from making it suitable for railway transport including special carriages that could move the tank and many other aspects. As such some authors argue that it might have been useful to build more Panzer IVs, Stugs or even Panthers instead of the Tiger. If one could argue why stop here, after all Germany was on the defensive. The German military historian Markus Pohlmann noted a very interesting memo that was written during the war by a German artillery general. This memorandum included info-graphics that suggested the amount of steel needed for one Tiger could actually produce 21 artillery pieces. Namely the Feldhaubitze 18, 105 millimeters, which was the standard German artillery piece throughout the WW2. Yet going down this route now, it would open up a whole new can of worms. Let's get back to our "big cats" because what I found most interesting in Wilbeck's book is the following. According to him, the heavy tank battalions and such the Tiger and the King Tiger were often not used according to doctrine. And he identified various points where they were used ineffectively. The first aspect was that in many cases there were not enough support troops, and as such too much weight was placed on the Tigers alone. For the most glaring example for this was the use of Tigers against mine fields. The second major issue was that the Tigers are often used in piecemeal fashion during offensive operations, thus contradicting the general principle concentration as outlined in doctrine, and hence severely limiting the impact of Tigers. Of course in some cases, this was due to over-lack of Tigers. This is a first contrary to the third point because according to Wilbeck, Tiger was most effective in the defense, when it was dispersed along a wide frontage. This was due to several reasons. As pointed out, the Allies tried to avoid Tiger formations, and considering the limited amount of mobility and the reliability of the Tigers, this could result in the loss outside of combat Additionally, if Tigers were dispersed, this will reduce the travel distance, which could increase the operational rates. Since they were not transferred to one hot spot to another. So, the next time when you are in charge of a schwere panzerbattalion, you have at least basic ideas what to do. To conclude: Spite the various shortcomings of both the Tiger and the King Tiger on the technique level, a heavy tank battalions can be considered combat effective. Of course, the question must be asked at what price. Many authors know the Tigers were famous or better infamous, get it was too expensive. Especially considering Germany's lack of resources. As such it was likely not cost effective at all. Then again, one has to ask, "what was the alternative", because just considering Panzer IV and Stug might seem obvious. But maybe the artillery general was right after all, and Germany should just have spend feldhaubitze and anti-tank guns all over Europe in 1943. Now, whatever you think of the Panzerkampfwagen VI, it really depends on the perspective, as Markus Pöhlmann illustrates very well. Context matters. Now if you like in-depth research content like this, consider supporting me on Patreon or alternative links in the description. Thank you here to Ralf Raths from the Panzermuseum and Chieftain for providing bibliographical support. Special thanks to Wolkgang, Jack and Malte for sending me books that made this video possible. As always, sources are linked in the description. Thank you for watching and see you next time



First Formation

The division was formed at Voroshilovsk in August and September 1939[1][2] from the 35th Rifle Regiment of the 74th Rifle Division.[3] The division was converted to a motorized division in March 1941, part of the 26th Mechanized Corps.[4] On 8 July the division became the 103rd Tank Division as a result of the reorganization of Red Army mechanized forces.[3] During July and August, it fought in the Yelnya Offensive as part of the corps, now subordinated to the 24th Army. On 28 August, it became a rifle division again.[5] In October 1941, it was surrounded and destroyed in the Spas-Demensky District, trapped in the Vyazma Pocket.[6] However, the division was only disbanded on 27 December,[7] despite coming out of the encirclement with only thirty men.[8]

Second Formation

Soviet prisoners of war after the Second Battle of Kharkov
Soviet prisoners of war after the Second Battle of Kharkov

The division was reformed on 9 January 1942 from the 463rd Rifle Division (originally formed 22 December 1941) at Samarkand. The 103rd was composed of the 393rd, 583rd and 688th Rifle Regiments. In early March, the division was relocated to Starobilsk with the 28th Army and fought in the Second Battle of Kharkov during May 1942. Due to supply shortages the division was not provided with food from 28 April to 2 May.[9] On 19 May, it became part of 6th Army[10] but was surrounded and destroyed at Izyum between 25 and 27 May. The division was officially disbanded on 30 June 1942.[11][12]

Third Formation

The division was reformed a third time on 21 July 1942 in the Transbaikal Military District and served there for the duration of the war. It was with the 2nd Rifle Corps in Transbaikal Front in January 1945.[6] During August and September 1945, it fought in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria.[13] For its actions, the division was awarded the honorific "Khingan". It was disbanded in 1946 in the Transbaikal-Amur Military District.[14][15]


  1. ^ "КРАТКАЯ ИСТОРИЧЕСКАЯ СПРАВКА О ТЕРРИТОРИИ СВВАУЛШ" [History of the Location of the Stavropol Military Higher Aviation School]. (in Russian). Retrieved 2016-02-19.
  2. ^ "Denis Osadchy". (in Russian).
  3. ^ a b Drig, Yevgeny (12 April 2007). "26 механизированный корпус" [26th Mechanized Corps]. (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2009-02-04. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  4. ^ "103-я моторизованная дивизия" [103rd Motorized Division]. (in Russian). Archived from the original on 4 August 2016. Retrieved 2016-02-19.
  5. ^ Glantz, David M. (2010-01-01). Barbarossa Derailed: The German advance to Smolensk, the encirclement battle, and the first and second Soviet counteroffensives, 10 July-24 August 1941. Casemate Publishers. p. 369. ISBN 9781906033729.
  6. ^ a b Poirier, Robert G.; Conner, Albert Z. (1991-07-01). Red Army: Order of Battle in the Great Patriotic War. Random House Value Publishing. ISBN 9780517071984.
  7. ^ "103-я стрелковая дивизия" [103rd Rifle Division]. (in Russian). Retrieved 1 Jan 2016.
  8. ^ Lopukhovsky, Lev (2013-08-01). The Viaz'ma Catastrophe, 1941: The Red Army's Disastrous Stand against Operation Typhoon. Helion and Company. p. 292. ISBN 9781908916501.
  9. ^ Semidetko, Vladimir (January 2008). "ХАРЬКОВСКАЯ КАТАСТРОФА МАЯ 1942 ГОДА" [The Kharkov Disaster May 1942]. (in Russian). Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  10. ^ Forczyk, Robert (2013-04-23). Kharkov 1942: The Wehrmacht Strikes Back. Osprey Publishing. p. 75. ISBN 9781780961576.
  11. ^ "103-я (ф. 1941) стрелковая дивизия -" [103rd (1941) Rifle Division – Home of the Club "Memory" Voronezh State University]. (in Russian). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
  12. ^ "103-я стрелковая дивизия" [103rd Rifle Division]. (in Russian). Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  13. ^ "103-я стрелковая дивизия" [103rd Rifle Division]. (in Russian). Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  14. ^ "Стрелковые 91–105" [Rifle 91–105]. (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2018-01-05. Retrieved 2016-02-19.
  15. ^ Feskov et al 2013, p. 565
  • Feskov, V.I.; Golikov, V.I.; Kalashnikov, K.A.; Slugin, S.A. (2013). Вооруженные силы СССР после Второй Мировой войны: от Красной Армии к Советской [The Armed Forces of the USSR after World War II: From the Red Army to the Soviet: Part 1 Land Forces] (in Russian). Tomsk: Scientific and Technical Literature Publishing. ISBN 9785895035306.
  • Poirer and Connor, Red Army Order of Battle
This page was last edited on 8 September 2019, at 22:38
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