Operation Spark Scenario by Mike Bersiks
MARINO, RUSSIA, 12 JANUARY 1943: After a series of costly and occasionally catastrophic failed offensives to attempt the relief of the city in 1942, the final months of that year saw relative calm descend on the Leningrad front. The Soviets were faced with rebuilding 2nd Shock Army for the second time, whilst for both sides the attention of the high command was focused on the decisive battle in the south at Stalingrad.
By January Soviet forces had recovered sufficient strength for them to consider another major offensive. The commander of the Volkhov Front, General Meretskov, had realized that previous attacks had foundered on the inability of his command to gain bridgeheads over the Neva River. Now, in the deep winter, the river was frozen solid – sufficient to hold the weight of T-60 light tanks (T-34s would still require bridges to get them across to the far bank). By the 67th Army attacking the German positions along the Neva at the same time as the Volkhov Front forces attacked the defences on the other side of the encircling salient it was hoped that breakthrough would be achieved, as the Germans would be unable to transfer forces between the two sides of their position.
The German positions on the Neva River bank would be pounded by the largest concentration of artillery yet seen on the Northern front, to aid the attack of four rifle divisions and one tank brigade. Marino, in the centre of the sector being attacked, would be the responsibility of the 136th Rifle Division. Of stout construction and heavily fortified by the defenders, drawn from Radfahr Abteilung 240 of the 170th Infanterie Division, the Marino strongpoint would bear the brunt of the first day of the Soviet offensive.
Evicting 300 German soldiers from Marino cost the Soviets 3 000 casualties, with the 136th Rifle Division having to be committed in full to achieve the breakthrough. The battle at Marino was fought as part of a general attack on the Neva Line and was the location of the only significant breakthrough between Shlisselburg and Dubrovka. The Soviets sent two rifle divisions and their tank brigade through the gap created which, by linking up with units attacking from the east, were able to finally achieve a land corridor along the shores of Lake Ladoga and break the siege of Leningrad.