Army Group Centre Smashes UFP advance on Feducia
It took the UFP until 1407.007M42 to consolidate thier hold on the south of Cerberex and begin their attack north, striking for the capital, Feducia. UFP high command had sweeping plans to cross the river Otter on a narrow front, bust through the Imperial defences and encircle the city. So far they had been unstoppable, and no-one in the Hartak 9th Legion, responsible for the initial assault, thought this offensive would be any different.
The UFP had been winning battles for years by this time, and alongside the natural confidence of a victorious army there was arrogance and even over confidenec. Even so, Admiral Haskell new the problems with the UFP army, particularly with regard to the small size of the Hartak legions. These elite formations were extremely tough and had won the Hartak war of rebellion, the Aleph war of liberation, the Ravitane incident and the Myrentas II campaign, but on occasions had been caught of guard and taken heavy casualties. Haskell knew these divisions were vulnerable and could not cope with a war of attrition, but the squat military leaders ignored his concerns and pushed on regardless. So far they had been proved right. Casualties were low and in the six weeks since landing on Cerberex nearly a third of the planet had fallen to the squats, with Tallaxian and Sartosan support.
General Von Rundstedt, commander of Army Group Centre, had been tasked to hold the central and most important sector of Cerberex. An area which encompased the vast central plain of the planet and the capital itself, Feducia. Von Rundstedt was also responsible for the defence of the mighty river Otter, a river which started in the south from many glacial streams, to a channel over a mile wide snaking its way through the lowlands of the planet. It acted as a defensive barrier with the UFP on the southern bank and the Imperium on the north. To attack Feducia directly, the UFP would have to come across the river in force.
Von Rundstedt knew that the river was not a total defence. In the north where the river emptied into the Caeralon sea, the channel widened from just over a mile to more than thirty miles. At the same time its depth decreased and the wide, deep river became a mass of swampland and narrow streams carrying the water into the sea. This area, although difficult to traverse, meant that the natural barrier was fordable for the last twenty miles of its length.
It was here than Von Rundstedt husbanded his forces in secret, under covers and in the marshes, while he made a big show of defensive force along the deeper river and in the south of his sector. The General had nearly one million troops guarding the sector and more than half of these were positioned to face the UFP threat. On paper the Imperial general had a 2:1 numerical superiority, but knew that this counted for nothing against the suat forces.
The UFP's advance began, as Von Rundstedt had hoped, with a blitzkrieg across the marshland on the extreme west of the front line. Very soon the squats had forced the Cerberex PDF defenders in the marshes themselves to flee, and the UFP advance was charging forward with its usual momentum. Then, as the Hartak 9th legion cleared the marshed Von Rundstedt ordered his commander on the spot, Colonel St. Aves, to counter attack with the newly refitted 3rd Aleph Veterans. St, Aves immediately prepared to ambush the confident squat army as it entered a hilly area to the north of the river.
The first the squats knew of the concealed counter attacking units was the sudden explosion of their lead Land Raider as the Basilisk artillery opened fire. Soon a rhino was burning too as AVR tanks rolled over the hilly grond and began attacking the UFP spearhead. The action soon intesnsified with squat bikers charging forward, attempting to commit the Imperial defenders to a close assault where the squat troops excelled. Although they were partially successful the Colonel continued with his plan, keeping his distance and pouring heavy fire into the squats from his mechanised companies. The squats soon found themselves pinned down and unable to move.
Some squats tried to break the deadlock, getting out of their transports and marching on the enemy. Mining robots appeared near the Imperial front line but were soon made into scrap metal. Though some squats made it to the Imperial lines, Colon St. Aves made sure the losses were one squat for every guardsmen. Alarm bells went off in UFP high command as the Hartak 9th legion's advance faltered, then collapsed. Within days the whole 9th legion was retreating, covered by the Tallaxian air corps who harried the pursuing Imperial Guard. Colonel St. Aves would not let the squats get away this time thoug and requested reinforcements from Von Rundstedt. The General agreed and soon three more regiments were pouring into the hole left by the retreating 9th legion. By the 20th the Imperial Guard had crossed the Otter and established a beachhead. Still the 9th legio were unable to halt and consolidate thier position as Colonel St. Aves ruthlessly pursued his foe.
By the end of the 25th Lester, taken a few weeks earluer by the UFP breakout, fell without a shot to the 3rd AVR. Only then, having exceeded their supply lines' ability to keep up, did the Imperial advance come to a halt. It was the biggest advance of the war so far and the first reversal in UFP fortunes for three years.
Much was made of the victory by the Imperium who broadcast the advance to an exultant crowd. Medals were awarded and promotions given, while captured squat "mutants" were paraded before a baying mob before being executed. The UFP meanwhile underplayed the reversal, describing it as a "temporary setback". The commanders on the ground now awaited each others' next move.