[Sticky] Operation Iskra
January 1943. Leningrad has been under siege for over a year.
The former Tsarist capitol and the birthplace of Soviet Communism has endured unimaginable hardship. Civilian deaths from disease, starvation, cold and the bitter fighting has seen, at a conservative estimate, half a million perish. What remains inside the city are a battle hardened populace, survivors endured to hardship. From the battered walls of the Shlisselburg fortress, to the trenches and strongpoints on the River Neva, the surviving Soviet soldiers are determined to hold on. Leningrad has endured so much. To fail now would be unimaginable.
Only sixteen kilometres separate Leonid Govorov's Leningrad Front, dug in along the western banks of the River Neva, to Kiril Meretskov's Volkhov Front to the east. Between them are the forces of George Lindemann's German 18th Army. Part of the original offensive against Leningrad nearly a year previously, the 18th and their sister formation, the 16th, maintain the siege behind tens of thousands of miles of trenches and barbed wire. German heavy artillery, including captured French 305mm railway guns, continue to hammer the city. The Luftwaffe has, for nearly a year, held uncontested control of the skies. Three months previously, the Stavka called a halt to the Sinyavino Offensive, a failed attempt to break the siege that cost the Soviets over a hundred thousand dead. The frontline remained the same.
Unknown to the Stavka, however, it had badly disrupted and led to the eventual cancellation of a serious German attempt to take the city that was abandoned in the face of the fierce Soviet assault. Now, with the dawn of a new year, comes a new offensive. The fortunes of war are changing. Soviet forces have decisively broken the German 6th Army at Stalingrad and it is now only a matter of time before Von Paulus and the beleaguered remnants in the city are forced to surrender.
New formations raised from the vast interior of the Soviet Union are being rushed to the front. Factories in the Urals produce tanks, artillery and aircraft in their thousands every day. There is now a belief that victory is a possibility. Operation Iskra, or 'Spark', is the codename for a new Soviet offensive designed to definitively break the siege of Leningrad.