Was the Tank Ditch encountered in the morning, the afternoon, or both?

Now, most accounts assume that the advancing Soviet 32nd Tank Brigade encountered the tank ditch in the morning. This is definitely the impression given by Ribbentrop’s account (6th panzer company/II Panzer Battalion). Some people add the Soviet 31st Tank Brigade to this mix. Zamulin has a different story. He states (page 327) that:

At 1300….[Soviet units] broke into the Oktiabr’skii State Farm. Having finally overrun the first line of antitank defense on Hill 252.2, a group of 29th Tank Corps tanks poured down the hill’s southwestern slopes in pursuit of the retreating enemy in the direction of the Komsomolets State Farm. But after several hundred meters of the chase, something happened which shocked their crews. Several T-34s, moving in the lead at high speed, suddenly vanishing into the deep anti-tank ditch.

Zamulin does not give a source for this claim. He then describes the tank ditch and then quotes the Wilhelm Roes account (from 7th panzer company/II Panzer Battalion). Is this a second encounter with the tank ditch, different than the one in the morning mentioned by Ribbentrop; or was the tank ditch only encountered in the afternoon; or was it run into twice; or have the accounts simply gotten garbled?

This is a very different construct, as it would have the attack being held up at Oktyabrskii Sovkhoz long before the attackers got to the tank ditch. It turns the tank ditch into a minor part of the story, as opposed to being one of reasons that the 32nd Tank Brigade was halted.

I did not include Zamulin’s version of the tank ditch story in my book as I did not have confidence in its validity. It did not help that he did not footnote it.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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